Muslim leaders in Collin County, an area just north of the Dallas-Forth Worth metroplex, are looking to establish the first-ever Islamic cemetery in the community.
In a town of nearly 4,000 people, the townspeople of Farmersville aren’t very open to the notion, according to David J. Meeks, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Meeks told The Dallas Morning News that the concern for the town is “the radical element of Islam,” adding that expansion will follow if the cemetery is put into place. Meeks referenced Islamic worship and education sites by adding, “How can we stop a mosque or madrassa training center from going in there?”
The Dallas Morning News also spoke with Khalil Abdur-Rashid, a professor who teaches Islam at Southern Methodist University and a spokesperson for the Islamic Association of Collin County, who was surprised with some of the community responses received on the issue.
“There will be no type of religious services at the cemetery,” Abdur-Rashid clarified. “We’re forbidden from saying prayers on a grave or cemetery,” said Abdur-Rashid, reinforcing the association’s intended compliance with state and local regulations.
Some Farmersville residents raised concerns with the practice of Islamic burial methods. Rather than embalming the bodies of the dead, Muslims wash the bodies in warm water before burying them. According to an Associated Press report, Farmersville resident Troy Gosnell told local CBS affiliate KTVT-TV, “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.”
In May, Breitbart Texas was covering the Mohammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland- 45 minutes southwest of Farmersville- when two armed men fired at law enforcement officers handling the event. Both suspects were killed and later identified as American Muslims, and it was later discovered the two men had prior involvement with terrorism- according to an FBI official.
Deemed an Islamic extremist attack, the event in May remains unforgotten, and possibly answers why some in Farmersville feel uncomfortable or opposed to the idea of an Islamic cemetery in their town.
Farmersville mayor Joe Helmberger told AP that the townspeople have an unjustifiable worry on the matter, saying, “There’s just a basic concern or distrust about the cemetery coming into town.” Helmberger also mentioned that if regulations are met, plans to build and establish the cemetery for the Muslim community will move forward, mentioning “that the U.S. was founded on religious freedom and that the association is simply trying to secure a burial site.”
Moving forward, the City Council and commissioners involved will meet four more times to approve requested measures by the Islamic association, giving residents and other community members the opportunity to further weigh in on the matter.