Uproar over Islamic cemetery in Australian townSeptember 25th, 2008 - 3:25 pm ICT by IANS
Sydney, Sep 25 (IANS) A proposed Islamic cemetery, to be built on an historic Anglican graveyard, has stirred a storm in the Australian town of Camden, where the issue of racism was raked up after its council refused to allow the establishment of an Islamic school while permitting the establishment of a Catholic school earlier this year.In 2004, the Anglican church had sold the St. Thomas Anglican Cemetery in the Narellan suburb of Camden, about 60 km southwest of Sydney, to a funeral company, which in turn has sold the cemetery to the Lebanese Muslim Association.
Even though the association has pledged to protect the existing graves, the issue has polarised the community and ignited fury amongst the locals.
“The church had no right to sell the cemetery land in the first place. My heritage is up there: my grandfather and grandmother, my parents, my brother and uncles. Our family goes back 200 years in the district. They came to Camden Park and stayed there”, Len English told the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).
The cemetery has a heritage listing on the Camden Local Environment Plan, which means existing graves cannot be demolished or altered without prior approval from the council.
In recent years, the Muslim community has been growing in Sydney’s southwest and there has been an acute shortage of burial grounds.
The An-Nur Islamic Cemetery and Burial Ground has space for 3,800 bodies and will be able to cater to the needs of the growing Muslim community for 10 to 15 years, reports SMH.
Earlier this year, the Camden Council had rejected a development application for a 1,200-student Islamic school on planning and environmental grounds, but recently supported a proposed Catholic school in the area, raising uncomfortable questions of double standards and racism in this historic town.
Five years ago, the Baulkham Hills Shire Council in Sydney’s north had rejected a businessman’s plans for building a Muslim prayer hall on the grounds that it did not fit with community characteristics. The decision was overturned by the Land and Environment Court.
Camden is a historic town, with about 150 Muslim families. It has a semi-rural feel with sandstone buildings and jacaranda trees. It is the birthplace of Australian wool, wheat and wine industries.
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