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Chester County Press

Islamic society seeks funding to build Muslim cemetery in county

01/12/2016 03:57PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw and John Chambless, Staff Writers

The Islamic Society of Delaware has submitted an offer to purchase property in Upper Oxford Township, for the purpose of building a cemetery and a funeral facility for the Muslim community.

As listed on its website and Facebook page, the Newark-based group is calling for financial support from its members to purchase property listed at 1406 Penns Grove Road in Lincoln University, just north of the Route 1 bypass. There is a business, Forestville Builders, located at the intersection of Penns Grove and Forest Manor roads, with a large empty lot on its northern edge. A farm sits down a long lane that runs next to the builder.

In its request, originally dated Dec. 4, 2015, the Society [ISD] requested that its community members "participate fully in this important project solely for he pleasure of Allah," by offering physical, intellectual and financial assistance. The group seeks "to establish a Muslim cemetery for now and a full service Muslim funeral home not too far in the future," the website posting reads. "One basic need for a dead Muslim person is to be buried according to the teaching of Islam."

Islamic funerals follw specific rites, but are subject to regional interpretation in various customs. In all cases, however, Islamic religious law calls for the burial of the body, preceded by the bathig and shrouding of the body, and followed by prayer.

Cremation of the body in the Islamic religion is forbidden.

The ISD, also known as Masjid Ibrahim, identifies itself as a mosque, community center and religious organization, is located on 28 Salem Church Road, and has the largest Muslim community following in the state. Communal prayers are held, providing an opportunity to learn about Islam, pray in congregation and meet Muslims. It offers two jumuaa prayers to a large congregation weekly, as well a Sunday School and a Quranic School on its campus.

Although it is unknown how many Muslims live in Delaware, at least five mosques operate in the state. The history of Islam in Delaware extends as far back as the origin of the Delaware Moors, a mixed-race community in Kent and Sussex counties, whose origins are variously attributed to 18th century shipwrecked Moorish pirates.

Chester County also has a Muslim presence, associated mainly with The Islamic Society of Chester County, which was founded in 1978, to accommodate a growing Muslim population in the county.

The ISD's wish to establish a presence in Upper Oxford Township comes as recent news to Scott Rugen, the township's Chairman of the Board, who said he learned about the plan last Friday, when a resident called the township to inquire about it. He said that no other information about the sale of the property exists within the township.

Rugen said that if there is any public backlash about the purchase of the township property, any voices of opposition will be heard. "Any application for zoning in the township has to go before the Zoning Hearing Board, and any residents who have concerns can show up as a party of interest and voice their concerns," Rugen said.

Phone calls to the ISD were not returned to the Chester County Press.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected].