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Quebec town should not have held referendum on cemetery for Muslims: Paradkar

Death is supposed to be the great equalizer. Not so, showed a bizarre democratic process that unfolded in a small Quebec town on Sunday night. A referendum, ostensibly about zoning changes, ended up giving a handful of non-Muslims the power to tell Muslims how to bury their dead. It took only 19 voters in Saint-Apollinaire to reject the creation of an Islamic cemetery that would have made it only the second in the province owned and operated by Muslims. The only Muslim-owned burial ground in a province with an estimated 250,000 Muslims is located in Montreal. Otherwise, there are four non-denominational cemeteries that have earmarked sections for Muslims that are leased out to them. While both kinds of burial grounds follow the same religious rites, many Muslims who want the reassurance of eternal rest or fear exhumation or don’t want to give future generations the responsibility of renewing leases end up flying the bodies of their dead to the lands of their origins.Article Continued BelowIn this context, the large, immediate question is: Should such a referendum have been held at all? No, says Yannick Boucher, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Montreal.“I deplore the silence of our political elites on this issue,” he told me by email. “It seems to me irresponsible on the part of our politicians to leave responsibility to the citizens of Saint-Apollinaire to decide on such a big issue.”The council in Saint-Apollinaire, a town of 6,000 people just southeast of Quebec City, had unanimously endorsed the proposal of an Islamic cemetery, after a local non-denominational funeral parlour struck a deal to sell a parcel of its land to an Islamic group.

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