A coalition of Muslim leaders in Garden City, Kan., has told city officials they want part of the public municipal cemetery to be set aside – with a fence or other marker – to be reserved for their use exclusively.
The proposal has been documented by reporter Shajia Ahmad in the Garden City Telegram, who noted members of the Coalition of Ethnic Minorities representing Muslims from Burma, Somalia and Ethiopia who have settled in the Kansas plains town presented a letter with the request to City Commissioner Nancy Harness recently.
The request drew reactions from area residents who participated in the newspaper’s forum page ranging from opposition to outright outrage.
“Less than 1 percent of the population of Garden City is asking for special religious treatment, said “Confused2.” “What’s next prayer rugs in schools? Direction arrows pointing east? If these were Christians asking this there’d be all sorts of groups coming together yelling about separation of church and state!”
“Remember that this is the United States of America. I don’t care if you came over here to make a better life for your & your family, you have to adapt to our ways & learn our language!” added “disgusted.” “All the other immigrants did & they didn’t get any special treatment. Why should the immigrants now? … Can’t believe the city would even consider this!”
According to the newspaper report, Harness forwarded the request to other commissioners this week.
“I think they’re excited about what they’re finding here and want to stay and raise their families,” Harness said of the ethnic groups making the request.
She reported an opportunity to accommodate the request might be coming, since the city’s Valley View Cemetery is expanding.
Jim Hahn, the city’s cemetery caretaker, said there used to be a number of divisions – for Catholics, Protestants and others – in the city facility, but those divisions have been removed.
“We try to accommodate everyone as best we can, and we’re trying to get away from sectioning off sections of the cemetery to specific people,” he told the newspaper. “The way I look at it, being a municipal cemetery, you want to stay as neutral as possible. There are a lot of different religions out there, and we try to accommodate them as best we can while fitting in with our rules and regulations.”
But Mohamad Abdulkadir, a leader of the Somalians, told the newspaper two members of his ethnic community died in recent months and were taken to a Muslim cemetery in Wichita.
“If they deny our request, maybe we can buy some land, but we’re waiting to see what (city officials) say,” he told the paper.
Others on the newspaper website were not exactly sympathetic.
Citizen X wrote, “I guess your dead relatives are too good to be buried among non-muslim dead, is that what you are saying?”
Another, “S,” noted the Quran instructs that believers should not be buried with non-believers, but segregation just isn’t right.
“We respect their religion and they should be able to practice it in the privacy of their mosque or home, but it should not include segregating the communities (sic) cemetery.”
Said another, “People need to open their eyes & quit bending over to appease these communities.”
On the Logans Warning blog, the report was met with outright hostility.
“What’s next setting aside parking places in public parking lots?” said one.