A standing-room only crowd filled the Farmersville High School auditorium Tuesday for a town hall meeting about a proposed Muslim-owned cemetery outside of town.
Much of the talk focused on negativity toward, and fear of, Islam.
“I don’t like your religion, and I don’t even classify it as a religion,” said one man who spoke at the meeting.
“Sometimes evil comes in sheep’s clothing, so that kind of bothers me,” a woman announced.
“Exactly what ‘Peace’ are you talking about?” asked one man, referring to recent acts of violence committed in the United States and abroad by members of the Muslim faith.
The concern comes after the Islamic Association of Collin County purchased a 35-acre plot along Highway 380 with the intention of building a cemetery that would accommodate members from its five mosques, as well as members of the general public.
“We never put anything out saying this is a ‘Muslim-only’ cemetery. It’s just owned by the Muslim community,” said Khalil Abdur-Rashid, a spokesperson for the Islamic Association of Collin County, to a member of the crowd after Tuesday’s meeting.
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Rashid told NBCDFW he believed the concerns from the community were not about the cemetery, specifically.
“This is about misinformation, and fear and hate. And until we confront that, in open honesty, it will continue to persist,” Rashid said.
In previous communication with local leaders, the IACC vowed that there would be no terrorist activity on the site, there would be no training center there and the group had no plans to build a mosque in the area.
In addition, when asked Tuesday night whether the property on which the cemetery would be built will adhere to Sharia law – Islamic law – Rashid told the crowd that, “No. They will adhere to Texas law.”
Prior to Tuesday’s town hall meeting, the Rev. David Meeks, pastor of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Farmersville, told NBCDFW he is adamantly opposed to the cemetery.
“Some people don’t want to be called an Islamophobe, or a bigot or a hater – that kind of thing. But this is a real problem, man,” Meeks said. “This is something that is going on in the world and only getting worse. And I see it to be a great problem.”
“The anger and vitriol that I heard tonight, I think, has to, folks have to speak their minds,” Rashid told NBCDFW. “But I think we also have to address it. And I think we also have to say, ‘Hey, listen. At some point you’ve gotta stop peddling the rhetoric.’”
Since the site is outside city limits, there is ultimately little that can be done to prevent it from being built.