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Austria´s first Islamic cemetary opens for business

Austria’s first ever Islamic cemetery will see its first burial tomorrow (Fri).

Omar Al-Rawi, a Social Democrat (SPÖ) municipal councillor and the person responsible for integration at the Islamic Believers Denomination (IG), said today the first body to be buried there would be that of a Moroccan who at worked for the UN in Vienna and died of illness.

The service will take place after the daily prayers at the site in southern Vienna.

Al-Rawi said the cemetery was available to every Muslim who died and parcels of land in it would be not sold or reserved for anyone. The cemetery would be open to all who wanted to visit it, just like any other, he added.

Al-Rawi said the first bodies to be buried in the cemetery would be placed deep into the ground to allow the stacking of corpses in order to accommodate a maximum number of bodies, which he estimated to be 4,000.

The cemetery has a long history. The first discussions between IG and the city government about an Islamic cemetery started some 20 years ago and finally led to acceptance of a plan by both sides in 2001, when it was hoped the cemetery would be able to open in 2003. In the interim, archeologists would conduct excavations on the 3.4 hectares of land in question.

IG was responsible for construction of the cemetery, but the bankruptcy of a construction company and lack of funds delayed construction.

Funds contributed by the Organisation of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC), Saudi Arabia and Qatar finally enabled it to begin.

A fire occurred at the partially-finished visitors’ centre, and vandals scrawled crosses on the cemetery’s walls in 2006, which caused a delay in its official opening until 3 October 2008. Cemetery officials received official operating permission several weeks ago.

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