A new Muslim cemetery and funeral home being planned at a site east of Calgary would provide more options for people in the northeast and southeast of the city, according to the organization behind the proposal.
Imam Syed Soharwardy with the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Assembly says a new cemetery would provide burial options for future generations, but some in the community have questioned the need for a second cemetery.
Currently, Muslims in Calgary are buried west of the city at a cemetery near Cochrane operated by the Muslim Council of Calgary.
The cemetery is open to Muslims of all denominations and has been operating for several decades.
That cemetery has plenty of capacity for many years of future burials and is estimated to be using only around six to seven per cent of its 74 acres (30 hectares) for grave sites.
But the organization behind the new cemetery says it’s about looking several decades, even centuries, into the future.
“Calgary is growing very fast and there’s a growing Muslim population. Yes, we have lots of capacity in our cemetery in Cochrane but at the same time there’s a convenience to the communities in the south and east of Calgary and surrounding towns,” said Soharwardy, speaking about a new burial option.
The Calgary area’s Muslim population is around 100,000 and growing.
Soharwardy says there is no need to wait until one cemetery is at capacity before opening a second site.
“We purchased this land, 100 acres (40.5 ha), that’s going to be utilized in the long-term,” said Soharwardy.
The land is around 12 minutes east of the intersection of Stoney Trail and McKnight Boulevard N.E.
“This could last maybe 300 or 400 years,” he said.
The price for the land was $950,000 with a down payment of $100,000 already made.
Soharwardy says the new cemetery would be open to all denominations of Islam and would provide all funeral services on-site, including preparation areas where bodies can be washed and made ready for burial, along with places for prayer.
Some of the cost has already been covered by mosque members. Soharwardy says one man will donate the sale of his own home toward the cemetery.
That brings the total already raised to around $250,000, and Soharwardy is confident the remaining money can be raised entirely through fundraising and private donations.
The money needs to be raised by October.
“We still need $750,000, and we also have to go through the zoning process, land use change and site development,” he said.
He estimates the cemetery could be ready for use within five years if it’s approved.
Soharwardy says they’ve been working with Rocky View County on pre-planning work, hiring engineering company ISL.
He says there’s been soil and water level testing to make sure the land is appropriate for a cemetery. He says the report they’ve received suggests a land use change would be feasible.
News of the project initially caused a stir in the community with some questioning the immediate need for a cemetery over other projects like Islamic schools and future mosques. But Soharwardy says the community is now more aware of the details and vision for the plan.
“Definitely some of the community members raised concerns about why we need a new cemetery. It’s not that we need two, we do not have to have two cemeteries. It’s only that it’s feasible, we’ve already collected more than $200,000 and the property was at a very reasonable price and can be paid off quickly,” he said.
“It’s an asset that can be utilized for many years to come.”