Plan for Muslim cemetery faces opposition in Japan

NHK has learned that residents of a town in western Japan oppose a plan to build a cemetery for Muslims.

Muslims face a lack of burial sites in Japan, where the dead are normally cremated.

To help solve the problem, a Muslim group based in Beppu City, Oita Prefecture, purchased a roughly 8,000 square meter plot of land in neighboring Hiji Town. The group is preparing to apply for permission from the town to build a cemetery.

But residents of two districts near the site have submitted a petition signed by more than 100 people to the town office and the town assembly.

They cite concerns that drainage water from the cemetery would contaminate their irrigation and drinking water.

Eto Kiyotaka, who proposed the petition, says the Muslim group has said the cemetery plan would be canceled if water quality tests indicate problems. But Eto says if problems happen, it will already be too late.

Khan Muhammad Tahir Abbas, who heads the Beppu Muslim Association, says he's disappointed that local residents do not accept the group's explanation that burials are carried out around the world. He says his group will continue efforts to allay their concerns.

The town assembly plans to vote on the petition on Thursday after which the town office says it will consider its response.