Rock Hill turns down efforts to build Islamic cemetery

The zoning board of appeals opposed a proposal Tuesday night made by the Islamic Center of South Carolina to build a Muslim cemetery off Bird Street.

The lot borders a neighborhood, and the city says the vote was about that, not their faith.

WBTV spoke with Duston Barto, editor of Muslim American Magazine.

“What are we going to do? It’s a cemetery, you bury people there. I don’t know if they’re worried about Muslim zombies or something,” Barto said.

“It’s hard for Muslims to do things that should seem normal. It should seem normal that we want to bury our dead and we want to bury them in a way that honors our tradition and our faith,” Barto said.

Joseph Sanocki has lived in the neighborhood one street over from the lot for 40 years.

“We simply oppose having a cemetery in this neighborhood,” Sanocki said.

Sanocki spoke out at the meeting, but he insists his opposition has nothing to do with faith, saying he wouldn’t support any cemetery going in nearby.

“It will devalue our properties, there’s no question about that. How many people do you think say, ‘Oh, there’s a cemetery there, I want to buy that house’?” Sanocki said.

Barto told WBTV that Muslim burials are simple, typically happening within 24 hours of a death. The bodies are buried with no casket, wrapped only in a sheet and often without a grave marker.

“I doubt it would be a problem if it was a normal cemetery. I think it’s really sad that people who have contributed to the society can be told, ‘You can’t die here. You can’t be buried here,’” Barto said.

Representatives with the mosque declined to comment, saying they would say more when they figured out where to go from here.

The city says their next move would be taking the fight to Circuit Court.