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Muslims in Tenn. face battle over cemetery

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as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,





Tenn. Muslims Face Resistance to Plans


Sat Dec 25, 1:46 PM ET U.S. National - AP



By WOODY BAIRD, Associated Press Writer


SOMERVILLE, Tenn. - Muslims planned to turn an old sod farm near Memphis into a cemetery, but angry neighbors protested, complaining the burial ground could become a staging ground for terrorists or spread disease from unembalmed bodies.



It was not the first time a group faced opposition when trying to build a cemetery or a Masjid, but the dispute stood out for the clarity of its anti-Muslim rhetoric.



"We know for a fact that Muslim Masjids have been used as terrorist hideouts and centers for terrorist activities," farmer John Wilson told members of a planning commission last month.



Similar disputes have arisen elsewhere when Muslim groups sought to develop Masjids or cemeteries, which are often the first Islamic institutions in some communities.



Opponents of a proposal to open a Masjid in Voorhees, N.J., distributed an anonymous flier warning that Islamic worshippers might include "extremists and radicals." Arguments over a proposed Muslim cemetery near Atlanta persisted for more then a year before officials approved preliminary plans.



Critics of the projects generally complain about potential damage to the environment, reduced property values and traffic congestion, but many also associate Islam with terrorism.



Rabiah Ahmed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said she noticed more protests of Muslim building proposals after the 2001 terrorist attacks, so she was not surprised by the cemetery critics near Memphis.



"It's not shocking, but it is discouraging," Ahmed said from the council's headquarters in Washington.



Opponents told the Fayette County planning commission in November that power lines would be prime targets for terrorists in the region about 20 miles east of Memphis.



"Ladies and gentlemen, you may think this is farfetched, but that is what the Jewish people thought when the Nazis started taking a small foothold, a little at a time, in their community," Wilson said.



In a telephone interview later, Wilson said he and his neighbors are primarily worried about their property values, but, he added, news reports cannot be ignored.



"I don't think anyone who has read the newspaper or seen what investigations have gone on about other Masjids would not have those kinds of concerns," he said.



Belinda Ghosheh, owner of the five-acre plot being considered for the cemetery, said a meeting of planning officials drew such a hostile crowd she feared for her safety. One woman yelled, "We don't need bin Laden's cousins in our neighborhood."



Ghosheh and her husband, a native of the Middle East who has been a U.S. citizen for more than 20 years, live in neighboring Shelby County.



"These people would possibly have been our neighbors if we had decided to build on that property," she said. "If this doesn't go through, we're still getting rid of it. I would never live out there now."



Annette Cutliff, a planning commission member who voted for the cemetery, was also at the meeting. "When I walked to my car, I looked over my shoulder," Cutliff said. "I was concerned because emotions were running high."



Critics also complained that the cemetery could be a health hazard because Muslims traditionally do not embalm their dead.






But Muhammad Zaman, a physician and associate professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee, said the practice is safe. "The decomposition of the human body does not add anything different than what it is," Zaman said.


One neighbor, Herbert Howell, said a cemetery should not be allowed regardless of who would be buried there.


"We are not at war with all the Islamics," Howell said. "I have no problem with who they are or what they are. If it was a filling station, I wouldn't want that either."


The Muslim Society of Memphis received a "special use" zoning exemption from the planning commission, which is appointed. But a committee of the elected county commission disapproved.


"They were very concerned about votes," Cutliff said.


The application was withdrawn before a vote by the full commission.


Memphis businessman Mohammad Halimah said the group is considering several options, including refiling the request.


Halimah, a U.S. citizen with four children born in the United States, said more than 15,000 Muslims live in the Memphis area, and their small private cemetery is running out of burial space.


In the meantime, he and several colleagues are trying to meet with residents individually to discuss their concerns. No zoning change is needed for a cemetery on church grounds, so building a Masjid on the site is also a possibility.


Complaints about the proposal, he said, are often based on ignorance. Some residents do not understand that Islam teaches peace.


"Our religion stresses acceptance by our neighbors," Halimah said. "Even if the law is on our side, religiously we have to be careful."



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fi aman Allah,



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:D this is beyond ridiculous I can't believe people can be led to believe and speak such non sense.

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