MURFREESBORO — The Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals approved the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro cemetery request Wednesday night.
“We have a cemetery,” ICM Imam Ossama Bahloul said after the 3-2 vote while many members of his congregation and supporters exchanged hugs.
“Now we can die,” ICM board Chairman and founder Essam Fathy quipped following the BZA debating the public hearing issue for more than two hours.
The past month, the board deferred a decision in a 3-2 vote following a long public hearing and asked the ICM to seek third-party studies to see if burials without casket and vaults are safe for ground water. The Islamic Center was also asked to study whether the Veals Road entrance and nearby Veals and Bradyville Pike intersection could handle funeral traffic.
Murfreesboro attorney John Green on behalf of the ICM insisted that past studies show ample soils exist for the burials. He also said having a funeral and burial at the center will cause less traffic impact than a burial elsewhere.
Board member Joe Meshotto, who had voted to defer before, called for approval with five conditions:
1.the ICM keep records of where the burials are located;
2. the 1.5-acre cemetery is limited to 1,500 burials;
3. the grave markers be limited to being a foot in height, which the ICM has proposed;
4. permit ends should the property be sold for a nonreligious use;
5. the graves be at least 5-foot deep.
“We don’t have a lot of laws that govern cemeteries,” Meshotto said.
Bahloul, the ICM religious leader, said after the meeting that he has no problem with the conditions.
“I don’t see issues,” Bahloul said. “There is no problem. As long as we have the cemetery, the restrictions are no big deal, and we’ll take it. We are not in a game. We care about the safety of everyone.”
If people have a valid safety concern, the ICM will address it, he said.
“Our children play there,” said Bahloul, whose congregation also has built a basketball court and a playground.
In addition to Meshotto’s support, BZA Chairman Zane Cantrell and Jerry Sartain voted in favor of the cemetery.
Cantrell said supporting the ICM request is the right thing to do.
“The staff is telling us that it complies with all state and local regulations,” said Cantrell, noting that the BZA must respect the “religious freedom we have in this country.”
“If we turn this down, there’s really no defense in your heart, no defense in your mind and no legal defense,” Cantrell said.
County Planning Director Doug Demosi said the ICM cemetery plan is in compliance with county zoning, as well as state laws that allow burials without caskets or vaults at private cemeteries.
BZA members Keith Bratcher and Joe Crowell, who had voted to defer the month before, opposed the cemetery.
Crowell said he’s worried the ICM plans to bury without caskets and vaults could pose a threat to ground water. He noted he worries about his own well water on his farm in Christiana being safe near Miller Cemetery.
After hearing ICM member Lema Sbenaty suggest that BZA members and others against the cemetery were not comfortable with Islam, Crowell insisted his position has nothing to do with religion and noted that the board had deferred a decision about a church cemetery in 2012 that also had people bringing up concerns, including flood plain issues along Burnt Knob Road.
“I’m not a racist in any way,” said Crowell, who also asked ICM members if they’d be willing to let him be buried there.
Imam Bahloul said his congregation would welcome Crowell “to get buried with us.”
Huh? What race is Islam? While they may want Crowell dead, we know it’s a lie that they’d allow him to be buried there. via WKRN:
The cemetery is private and only congregation members will be buried on site. One person has already been buried there.
So unless he converts to Islam, it’s a lie. And the person who was buried there was buried long before the mosque was approved and long before they even sought approval for a cemetery.
Rules for Americans, and rules for Muslims living in America. Not the same.
The Muslim Brotherhood, CAIR and terror links of the the mosque have been well documented and can be found in the archives. As for Sbenaty, here she is pictured with the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, Tariq Ramadan (banned from the U.S. until Obama took office). ‘Nuff said?