St. John's Muslim community to have own cemetery

The St. John's Muslim community is approaching a milestone — after years of preparation and fundraising, it is ready to establish its own cemetery.
The General Protestant Cemetery of St. John's has long been a place where local ethnic communities have felt welcome to bury their dead, including the local Muslim community. (CBC)

The Muslim community in St. John's is approaching a milestone. After years of preparation and fundraising, it's ready to establish its own cemetery.

25 years ago, the St. John's Muslim community were given 50 lots on the cemetery's southwest corner. Today, just three or four lots remain. (CBC)

For the last 25 years, the Muslim community has buried its dead at the General Protestant Cemetery in the city's west end.

Back then, the group was given 50 lots on the southwest corner of the cemetery. Today there are just three or four remaining lots available.

Syed Pirzada, president of the local Muslim association, said it has become an emergency situation for them. 

Thirty years ago, only a handful of Muslim families called St. John's home. Pirzada said today there are more than 200 families living in the city. He said when families looking to move to the province inquire about the region and its services, cemetery questions inevitably come up.

Syed Pirzada, president of the St. John's Muslim Association, says the whole community is very excited about plans for their new cemetery. (CBC)

"We have people moving here from the United States, from across Canada and from all over the world," Pirzada said. "Major questions asked are 'is there a proper community centre, a proper Mosque, restaurants, and is there a cemetery?' So I think having all this will make it easier for them to make a decision."

Space is not the only consideration however. Pirzada said in accordance with Muslim tradition, they bury their dead with as little delay as possible. Bodies are washed, wrapped in a white shroud, and buried facing Mecca. The practice hasn't always been possible at Christian cemeteries — but it will be in their own cemetery.

Pirzada added that plans will include a funeral home where bodies can be properly prepared, and a sanctuary where traditional prayers can be said.

The new cemetery will be in Torbay, off the Bauline Line. 100 lots will be developed in the first phase of the project.

Work is expected to start this spring.