BOSTON – Months after being sued, a small Massachusetts town has agreed to let a local Islamic group to build a cemetery that some of the neighbours.
Under a deal approved this week, the city of Dudley will allow the Islamic Society of Greater Worcester to buy a long-active dairy farm and build a 6-acre cemetery on the site. In exchange for the group not to search for expansion of the cemetery for at least ten years and will drop a lawsuit he filed against the city in July.
The society called on Dudley after a city zoning board denied plans for the cemetery in June, say that the group is permanently searching for a special permit. The group, which runs a mosque, around 20 km from Dudley, claimed that the constitutional rights were violated in the rejection.
During previous meetings about the proposal, which some residents had said they feared that the cemetery could contaminate the groundwater, since Muslims traditionally do not embalm bodies, and bury their dead without a coffin. They also cited concerns about noise, vandalism and increased traffic on the narrow road along the proposed site.
The group leaders described those arguments as thinly veiled bigotry.
Both sides negotiated until October, when a lawyer for the Islamic group said talks had reached a standstill. But on Thursday, the city’s governing body announced was a deal.
Under the agreement, the Islamic group should return to the department of spatial planning in the beginning of 2017 for a public hearing, but the cemetery proposal is approved. As soon as all permits are granted, the group will turn the lawsuit. The deal says that Dudley nothing settlement of payments to the group or its lawyers.
Khalid Sadozai, trustee of the society, said in a statement that the group is going forward with the project.
“Today is a good day for the citizens of all beliefs,” he said. “Our right to practice our religion, and honor, loved ones, in accordance with our Islamic faith is confirmed.”
The chairman of Dudley of the board of directors, Jonathan Ruda, issued a statement saying the agreement is a fair, open the application of the law.
“We want to emphasize that the church is the only interest and motivation is for all parties to respect the legal and administrative process, and has absolutely nothing to do with the religious belief of the applicant,” he said.
Similar disputes have erupted across the country in states such as Texas, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. In some cases, opponents have defeated cemetery projects, while in other Islamic groups have appealed and reviewed have paved the way.