Quebec City’s Muslim community hopes to open a cemetery to bury dead

Quebec City's Muslim community wants cemetery

QUEBEC — The shooting in Quebec City’s mosque over the weekend has helped highlight the fact the city doesn’t have a place to bury people of the Muslim faith.

In fact, the five Muslim cemeteries in the province of Quebec are all located in the Montreal area, the head of a non-profit Islamic burial association said Wednesday.

Hadjira Belkacem said families of Muslims who die outside Montreal have to deliver the body for burial in Quebec’s largest city or pay thousands of dollars to have it shipped to the deceased’s country of origin.

“It’s really a catastrophic situation,” she said in an interview.

Five of the six men who were murdered in Quebec City on Sunday will be buried overseas, said Mohamed Yangui, president of the targeted mosque.

The bodies will be flown to Algeria, Tunisia, Guinea and Morocco.

Mamadou Tanou Barry, originally from Guinea, will be buried in Montreal, said a member of Quebec City’s Guinean association.

Quebec City has between 8,000 and 10,000 Muslims, Belkacem said, according to her organization’s census.

“Some people have lost children — imagine having to repatriate a body to Montreal or overseas when the family is still here,” she added.

Yangui said his Islamic centre is “working very hard” to get a cemetery for the community. “I think that soon enough we will have one here.”

The mosque’s vice-president, Mohamed Labidi, said the Islamic centre has been working on the file for the past 10 years.

“It’s a work in progress,” Labidi said. “We’d like to have the help of all levels of government.”

Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume told reporters Wednesday “an agreement has been reached” with a local cemetery to reserve space for the bodies.

Belkacem said Labeaume’s comments are unrealistic.

“It’s not something you can just do tomorrow,” she said. “You need licensed Islamic funeral parlours to be able to handle that. There aren’t any in Quebec City.”

She said in the Islamic faith, bodies must be buried in the direction of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, which is in Saudi Arabia.

Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, was arrested Sunday night following the massacre in which the six men were killed and 19 people were also wounded, including two critically.

Giuseppe Valiante, The Canadian Press

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