(Translation by T&P. Original article here)
A job, a better life, live with their relatives… The reasons that brought to Vitoria the 5,000 Muslims that live nowadays in the city are now part of their past. Some of the obstacles that they met when they arrived at the city exist till today. One of those obstacles is the non-existence in Vitoria of a mkbara, or Arab cemetery adapted to the rituals of this community, an space reclaimed for some years now and about what the Major’s office didn’t reach any agreement some years ago. But this autumn its construction will be considered again.
The recent inauguration of a Muslim cemetery in Derio (opened in Oct, 2008 inside the Christian cemetery already built) seems to have given this project the support it needed. “As we suceeded in Bilbao, Vitoria’s Major’s office contacted us to see what we could do here”, the President of the Islamic Communities Union in the Basque Country, Ahmed El Hanafy explains. It seems that some members of this association (they want one person per mosque –the city has five- to attend each meeting) and city representatives will meet again to begin the negotiations related to the new cemetery.
The next meeting could end a debate whose last chapter began in 2004. The proposal of setting an area for Islamist (islamistas in the original) burials, was made then by the city’s Basque Nationalist Party group. They picked up a demand made by the Islamic community in the city who were asking for an specific area near El Salvador. “It could be an exclusive area or being located inside the cementery”, explains now El Hanafy. That first petition seemed to have all the support it needed to succeed because Basque Government just had passed a regulation that had removed all the requirements of burial requirements, regarding health and enviromental related issues, that allowed to build the cemetery. All the political parties, except PP (center-right) supported the idea, but it wasn’t built in the end.
The first conversations regarding this cemetery were held in the late 90’s, when the Vitorian Major’s office destined 1,000 square meters in El Salvador for this use. Two years later the debate was again held, but again the cemetery wasn’t built. “We are very grateful to see that the Major’s office had again shown interest in this project”, says the responsible of the Islamic Communities’ Union of the Basque Country,although he adds that there are things to discuss about, like “how, where, how much and when”.
“We would like to have more land than in Bilbao“, where around 300 corpses can be buried in around 450 square meters. The new cemetery would allow the believers to save the huge costs of sending the corpses back to their countries of origin (around €4,000 if they have to send it to Morocco or more than 6,000 if they have to send to, for example, Senegal. “We are not speaking about immigrants, but of the new generations, of Vitorian Muslims who want to be buried according to Islamic rituals“, says El Hanafy.
NOTE: I have corrected some typing errors I had made.