Small Muslim Community Struggles to Find Burial Ground for its Dead

A small Muslim community is facing challenges in burying its dead. After a controversial effort to buy land for a cemetery in a residential area, they're back to square one.

There is a cemetery just a block away from the Islamic Center in Rock Hill and there's more within a few miles. None of them will work for the Muslim community here. One of the founding members of the mosque explains why.

When you pray, you must face Mecca, according to the Islamic faith. Men and women pray in separate rooms. Just as those are close held beliefs and traditions, the way and place you bury your deceased loved ones must be according to custom.

"Jews have their own, Christians have their own. They can be next to each other. We want our separate one because of the tradition of the prophet. His recommendation is that you bury all your dead in a particular place," said Dr. Mohammad Hossain.

Hossain, a founder of the Islamic Center of Rock Hill, says according to tradition, Muslims must have their own separate cemetery.

"If I go there to say some supplications, we are only sending it up for the dead who are Muslims," said Hossain.

In June, the zoning board of appeals turned down their request to use a plot of land in a residential area for a cemetery. A handful of homeowners in the area, shared their concern that a burial site there could bring down their property values. Now, the Islamic Center is working with the city to find a place to bury their dead.

"City attorneys said they will help us find a suitable place where the city has designated a location. If you buy there, no one will object to that," said Hossain.

Community leaders say the city should be giving them an answer on a potential location within the next couple of weeks. Right now, if someone in the Rock Hill Muslim community passes away, they have to go to Charlotte or Gastonia to bury that person.

An essential part of Muslim tradition is to bury their deceased loved ones as soon as possible. Another reason why having an Islamic burial ground is so important to this Rock Hill community.