Neighbors Oppose Proposed Islamic Cemetery in Dudley, Massachusetts

An abandoned farm in Dudley, Massachusetts, is the proposed site of an Islamic cemetery, but that plan isn't without opposition.

The Islamic Society of Greater Worcester wants to buy the land and put in the burying ground because their small cemetery in Connecticut is far away and filling up. People who live near the Dudley property say this is not the place for it. They are concerned about, among other things, their wells being contaminated.

"In Walpole, they recommended 250 meters from any existing well you can put your cemetery," said Steven Burowski. "We're looking for proper distance and everything else and if I get 250 meters and everybody gets 250 meters they can have their cemetery."

"Well, I don't necessarily agree with them having a cemetery," said Richard Raymond, whose property overlooks the site.

Raymond says traffic is another issue. The road is just too narrow.

"Putting a cemetery there - any cemetery - would be a concern," he said. "And you know that this is going to be framed by a lot of people as, oh, they just don't want an Islamic cemetery there. Yes, we've already been confronted with that and we think it's been unfair and we chose not to respond to that because that just perpetuates an argument. Has nothing to do with religion."

But an attorney for the Islamic Society says none of those concerns is valid.

"We believe it's all a red herring," said Jason Talerman. "We believe there is no just reason to deny for environmental or moral grounds a cemetery."

The town is moving forward, though. The zoning board of appeals is considering denying the application. And there is also a proposal the town buy the land so the Islamic Society can't.

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