Residents of a Canadian town have rejected a proposal to open a Muslim-run cemetery in Quebec.
The project’s fate rested in the hands of 49 voters and in the end only 36 of them turned out to vote. Sixteen people voted yes and 19 voted no.
President of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, Mohammad Labidi, said, “Ignorance and misunderstanding have won the day. This is very disappointing. It was just a cemetery. How could we arrive at this result?” The Globe and Mail further quoted Labidi as saying his group would consider going to court to challenge the case. “We are Canadian citizens just like everyone else. Why are we being treated differently? We’re now starting over at zero. We will fight.”
The cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire was to be one of the first tangible signs of co-habitation in the aftermath of the mosque shooting in January that took the lives of six Muslim worshippers in Quebec City.
Bernard Ouellet, mayor of the town of 6,000, said he had hoped the cemetery would become a symbol of welcome and acceptance toward the Muslim community. “I see this as a phenomenon of fear,” he said about the referendum outcome. People put all Muslims in the same basket and see them as radicals. I am disappointed.”
“Why deny a right to those who want a cemetery of their own, where they can be buried according to their own rituals? It takes away nothing from anyone else. It’s a mark of respect for another religion,” the archbishop told a Quebec City newspaper. Why should it be difficult in this vast territory that is Quebec to have a second cemetery that belongs to them, a little piece of land where they can have a burial according to their rituals, respecting their own traditions?”
While the cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire was to be run by the Islamic Cultural Centre, Muslims in Quebec City area recently gained the option of burying their loved ones in a non-denominational burial ground in the area. This month, a funeral home inaugurated a Muslim section with 500 plots within its cemetery in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, west of Quebec City.