MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Citing the need for more information Wednesday, the Rutherford County Board of Zoning Appeals deferred making a decision on whether to allow the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to have a cemetery on its property.
The board voted 3-2 to defer the matter for at least 30 days and instructed Islamic Center leaders to hire third-party experts to conduct an environmental study and examine how a cemetery would impact traffic in order for the request to be considered again.
The decision came down after more than two hours of discussion that featured a contentious public hearing, which at times resulted in brief shouting matches between Islamic Center opponents and members of the Muslim community.
Just prior to the vote, several of the board members said they are concerned about how a cemetery would affect groundwater and the soil because Islamic tradition does not call for a deceased person to be buried in a casket or vault.
The mosque, located on Veals Road off Bradyville Pike, is located in an area of Rutherford County where several residents still rely on well water for personal use.
Although practices can vary depending on regional customs, Islamic law calls for the deceased to be wrapped in cloth and placed directly in a grave without a casket. In addition, only a small marker is allowed on top of the gravesite.
Islamic Center board members said that in addition to practicing traditional customs, they wrap the deceased in plastic bags, put the body on a wooden board that is put into the ground at about 7 feet deep and place another board on top before filling the grave with dirt.
The soonest the cemetery request can be considered again is in January 2014, though it will likely take much longer for the soil and traffic studies to be completed.
To see more photos and read in-depth coverage of the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, pick up a copy of the Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, print edition of The Murfreesboro Post.