Canadian town votes against allowing Islamic cemetery to be built


QUEBEC CITY, Canada:  Muslims in the Quebec City area are facing disappointment and uncertainty after voters in a small town close to the provincial capital voted Sunday night to stop the development of a cemetery catering to the Islamic faith.           

In a closely watched referendum Sunday night, just 36 residents of Saint-Apollinaire, a town of around 6,000 southwest of Quebec City, voted 19-16 to overturn zoning changes made earlier this year allowing the cemetery. One ballot was rejected.

“It’s very disappointing,” Mohamed Labidi, president of the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, told the Star Sunday night. “We feel ignored … the action in Saint-Apollinaire is against living together.”

The centre was the driving force behind the purchase of a plot of land beside an existing cemetery in Saint-Apollinaire earlier this year that members hoped would become their own. Now Labidi says he will be meeting with his administration to come up with another plan.

The result will have ramifications not just for Muslims in the Quebec City area, but across the province, given that there is only one Muslim-run cemetery in Quebec. Searches for other suitable land will likely be needed, Labidi says.

The project’s genesis goes back to 2016 when Sylvain Roy, the director of the non-denominational Harmonia funeral home in Saint-Apollinaire, heard from a Muslim family who couldn’t find a local cemetery where they could bury a loved one in accordance with the Islamic faith.

The lack of options for Muslims in the province became more widely known following a shooting rampage in January 2017 at a Quebec City mosque. The incident, which took place during evening prayers on Jan. 29, left six men dead and 19 others injured. One of the dead was buried in Laval, where the only Muslim-run cemetery in Quebec is located. The bodies of the other five were repatriated to their countries of origin.

In February, Harmonia funeral home agreed to sell a parcel of land to the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec in Saint-Apollinaire, a deal that was unanimously approved by council when it voted for zoning changes that would allow for the Muslim-run cemetery.

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