One might assume that a cemetery poses little threat to public safety. After all, its residents are dead. But in Farmersville, Texas, plans for a new burial facility have been met with a remarkable amount of backlash from local residents.
The reason: The people buried there would be Muslim.
The Associated Press reports that the Islamic Association of Collin County has submitted a 35-acre development request to build a cemetery in Farmersville. As of now, the IACC faces a shortage of burial space at the estimated five other Islamic cemeteries in North Texas.
Farmersville town leaders, including the mayor, support the plan, and insist that the request will be approved as long as development standards are met — the IACC has already purchased the land, after all.
But others? Not so much. From the Associated Press:
"Although the area already has a Buddhist center and Mormon church, residents showed up in force at a recent town meeting to oppose allowing a Muslim cemetery, which would include an open-air pavilion and small retail component that would run along a busy highway through town."
Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor David J. Meeks expressed concern that the cemetery could attract dangerous elements.
"The concern for us is the radical element of Islam," he told the Dallas Morning News. "How can we stop a mosque or madrassa training center from going in there?"
Others have reportedly expressed concern over the alleged health hazards posed by the Muslim burial process.
"When somebody dies, they bury them at that time," Farmersville resident Troy Gosnell told KTVT-TV, according to the AP. "You don't know whether they were shot, diseased or anything else. All they do is wrap them in a sheet, throw them in the grave and bury them."
There is little in real life to indicate either of these concerns are legitimate. IACC representatives have gone out of their way to insist this will, in fact, be a cemetery, not a training ground for militants. And although Muslim tradition typically dictates that the dead are buried as quickly as possible, and often not in coffins, the IACC has said that the bodies in Farmersville will be buried in coffins.
None of this seems to have calmed local anxieties. Much like the so-called Ground Zero mosque that sparked controversy in New York City due to its proximity to the World Trade Center, or the proposed Muslim cemetery in Sidney Center, New York, which prompted suspicious town leaders to investigate how Muslims bury their dead, the Farmersville cemetery suggests that the mere existence of Muslims — who make up 23% of the global population — is enough to cause fear and anxiety.
Farmersville has about 3,400 people. Eighty-two percent are white.
h/t Associated Press