New Muslim burial ground could be in the works for Saskatchewan

Burial grounds and the province's first cemetery for Islamic-specific needs are being considered by religious leaders in Saskatchewan, spurred by an increase in population.

Imams say population growth will spur a need for a Muslim cemetery in the province

Members at Regina's Madni Mosque said there is a growing need of a final resting place for Muslims (Aldo Columpsi/CBC News)

Saskatchewan's population has been booming and becoming more diverse over the last decade, and among the growing cultural groups are people of the Islamic faith. 

Now, religious leaders in Saskatchewan's Muslim community are considering one of the facts of life when it comes to population growth — namely death, and the funerals that follow. 

Burial grounds and the province's first cemetery for Islamic-specific needs may soon be in the works.

Imam Umar Kholwadia of Regina's Madni Mosque says there is a greater demand than ever before for a resting place that Muslims can call their own. 

"Regina is a growing city and we do expect many more Muslims to come. As time goes on, we will need a specific place for burials," Kholwadia said. 

Imam Umar Kholwadia says cemetery will help with administering Islamic burial rites (Neil Cochrane/CBC News)

The numbers may bear that out. 

According to Statistics Canada, there were 2,230 Muslims living in all of Saskatchewan in 2001. The latest census in 2011 reported 3,545 Muslims in Regina alone. 

And the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (IAOS) estimates the population of Muslims across the province is even higher: close to 10,000 people. 

The issue of burial grounds for Muslims has been highlighted after the death of Saeed Warraich, who was killed in a car accident on Ring Road in March. 

His family decided to have his remains flown back to Pakistan; a trip the imams at the Madni Mosque said can cost families tens of thousands of dollars. It can also violate some formal burial rituals in the Islamic faith.

"For the people who are living, we have special prayers when we enter the graveyard we have to say, to send peace upon the dead people," Kholwadia explained.

Population still needs 'critical mass'

The IAOS currently has between 80 to 100 plots reserved in the Riverside Cemetery in Regina. President Munir Haque said there are good logistical reasons to continue working with the city. 

"There's a level of co-ordination and maintenance operations that have to take effect. And right now, as a volunteer-based organization, we just don't have the resources to do something like that," he said. 

The IAOS also says the population may not have reached a "critical mass" to justify an entire cemetery dedicated to Muslims, but the issue is a priority for the group. 

There are currently no finalized plans on where land may be purchased or what the timeline is, but the imams at the mosque say the location should be an easily accessible area for all Muslims in the province.

"It must be a decent place so that everyone can easily go there and bury their dead, and it won't be hard for them," Umar Kholwadia added.


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