Plans for cemetery with 35,000 burial plots divide Lancashire town | Lancashire

Folks hardly ever transfer to Oswaldtwistle, locals say. The 11,000 residents of the town exterior Blackburn are largely descendants of miners and textile employees, with some saying the final vital battle was the Nineteenth-century power-loom riots. However a dispute over a cemetery is now inflicting division.

The Blackburn billionaires Mohsin and Zuber Issa – the brand new homeowners of Asda – have proposed constructing a cemetery with as much as 35,000 burial plots alongside a Muslim funeral parlour and prayer rooms to permit conventional Muslim burial rites on the positioning.

The cemetery would “meet the wants of all communities that want to be buried on the web site and can accommodate individuals from all faiths and backgrounds”, in accordance with the Issa Basis. At present, Muslims within the space have to scrub and shroud the physique at a mosque earlier than transporting it to a cemetery.

The muse stated vacant Muslim burial plots within the UK have been working out, particularly after the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affected Muslim communities. “Covid has put a lot pressure on our burial grounds that we’re fairly actually working out of house,” stated Sabir Esa, a businessman from Lancashire. “In Blackburn we at the moment are burying our useless on scrap items of land. It’s a horrible scenario.”

However about 200 individuals attended a rally in opposition to the plan and greater than 3,500 have signed a petition opposing the event. Some have cited water drainage as an issue.

“I feel everybody within the space is against [the cemetery],” stated Marlene Haworth, the chief of the Conservative group in Hyndburn council. Haworth stated the sphere purchased by the Issa Basis was a part of a inexperienced belt valued by native individuals for its pure magnificence and wildlife. She added that the realm was inappropriate for Muslim burial as “Oswaldtwistle has a really small Asian group”.

The proposed web site is a half an hour stroll from a mosque within the town of Accrington, which merges with Oswaldtwistle to the east. Greater than 10% of individuals residing inside Hyndburn native authority are Muslim, double the nationwide common, whereas in Accrington the Muslim inhabitants rises to twenty%.

There have been unsuccessful makes an attempt to construct a Muslim cemetery in Lancashire for the previous 9 years. Esa tried in 2012 and once more in 2015 to construct a cemetery within the Ribble Valley however confronted comparable opposition from residents. “The arguments they used have been: ‘First they put a cemetery, then they’ll put a mosque,’” Esa stated.

“I’ve nothing in opposition to a mosque, however I don’t desire a mosque in Oswaldtwistle,” stated Paul Edmundson, 51, an electrician. He defined he was nervous the venture would broaden to incorporate locations of worship – a priority repeated by different residents.

Paul Edmundson
Paul Edmundson is worried in regards to the elevated visitors the cemetery would convey to one of the vital harmful roads within the space. {Photograph}: Joel Goodman/The Guardian

Edmundson additionally values the inexperienced belt the place the cemetery could be constructed and infrequently walks his canine there. He’s involved about elevated visitors on one of the vital harmful roads within the space. “I feel there’s extra applicable locations for it to be … not in a village like this,” he stated.

Many Muslim residents have been reluctant to talk, citing fears of a backlash. However a Hyndburn Labour councillor, Noordad Aziz, spoke in favour of the cemetery. He reported one particular person to the police after he was intimidated throughout a public session.

He stated that afterwards feedback about him have been made on a Fb group devoted to opposing the cemetery. “I’ve been accused of being a ‘spy’ in addition to being a part of a ‘racial alliance’ and the group was filled with Islamophobic and derogatory tropes,” he stated.

Aziz harassed the remarks weren’t consultant of Oswaldtwistle residents. The primary problem is misinformation, he stated, recalling cases of residents involved that the grounds could be used for weddings or to construct a mosque.

“A burial web site can’t be used as a mosque,” he stated, “However whenever you clarify that to individuals, they go: ‘Oh, effectively, I wasn’t conscious of that.’ I feel essentially, there must be higher communication.”

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