Residents of a small town in Canada voted Sunday 19-16 against a project that would have created the first Muslim owned and operated cemetery in the Quebec City region. Only 49 voters -- neighbors of the area where the cemetery would be established in a wooded area of Saint-Apollinaire -- were eligible to participate, and 36 cast their ballots with one rejected, Canadian media reported.
The mayor and council of the town of 6,000 residents endorsed the project May 1. But a petition against the cemetery was signed by 17 people, enough to necessitate a referendum on the cemetery. Opponents said Muslims could be buried in sections of existing cemeteries or in a new one that allowed multi-faith burials, with a section for those of the Islamic faith. But a spokesperson for the organization behind the project, the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec, said it was essential to have ownership of the land. "When you have land like that you own, families have a plot for eternity," Mohamed Kesri told the Canadian Press. That way Muslims could be rest assured all Islamic rights and customs were followed, he said. Mayor Bernard Ouellet said before the vote he thought his town's reputation would be damaged if the vote went against the cemetery.
The project gained momentum after six Muslims were killed in January while at prayer in a Quebec City mosque and it was realized the closest Muslim cemetery was 250 kilometers (155 miles) away, north of Montreal. A cemetery in Quebec City was inaugurated July 9, with more than 500 plots set aside in an existing cemetery for Muslims.