Muslims to open 10,000-grave cemetery near Manotick
By Jennifer Green , The Ottawa Citizen
August 27, 2009
OTTAWA — The largest Muslim cemetery in Ontario, and one of the biggest in Canada, is about to open in a serene setting near Manotick.
It will accommodate about 10,000 graves, says Abu Nazir, president of the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery. There is a small Shia cemetery near Toronto, of less than half a hectare, as well as a larger cemetery serving the general Muslim population in Montreal. The Manotick site is also to serve all Muslims.
Trees are being cleared now for roads, culverts, and some landscaping. Burials could begin as early as this autumn.
Nazir’s group has been working towards this for more than 15 years, looking at about 160 sites. In 2004, it paid $185,000 for a 12-hectare plot at 1668 Manotick Station Road. The group has spent the last five years getting approvals from the city, the province and the medical officer of health. The soil has to have proper drainage to ensure the burials will not contaminate surrounding water. As well, the province has to approve a plan outlining each grave plot, and a fund to ensure it will be properly maintained.
Muslims in this area have long wanted their own cemetery to better accommodate their rituals.
They are not embalmed or cremated, but buried as quickly as possible, preferably within 24 hours.
The deceased are washed, and wrapped in winding cloths. Men are wrapped in two clothes, one for the upper torso, and the other for the bottom. Women are similarly wrapped, but they have a third shroud on top of the first two.
The body is placed in a plain, unvarnished wood box. The imam, or spiritual leader, says a five-minute prayer, and the body is placed in the ground facing toward the holy city of Mecca.
Now, Muslims are buried in their own areas at Ottawa’s public cemeteries, but they cannot always have their funerals as quickly as they would like.
Nazir said there haven’t been any complaints from the community about the graveyard, although it complicated negotiations for the land. Once vendors realized the site would be a cemetery, they often wanted to raise the price or become partners in the project. The Ottawa Muslim Cemetery is a non-profit organization.
The new cemetery will sell plots for $1,000. Opening and closing of the gravesite, as well facilities for prayers will cost another $600 to $800. A flat memorial plaque would cost a few hundred more, said Nazir. Muslims generally don’t have large tombstones.
Nazir estimates there are about 100 to 200 deaths a year among the city’s community of about 65,000 Muslims. He believes this cemetery should last at least 60 to 70 years. The group will likely prepare the land in five stages of 2,000 plots each.
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