Aug 3, 2023 - News

Islamic Center of Des Moines to open new cemetery

Iowa Afghan Community group meeting

A group meeting between the Iowa Afghan Community & Cultural Organization. The group is fundraising for an acre of land for a graveyard. Photo: Courtesy of IACCO

The Islamic Center of Des Moines is preparing to acquire its own cemetery for the first time — a significant move that will help them follow Muslim traditions and ease financial costs for grieving families.

Why it matters: Muslims follow a specific set of traditions for funerals, including washing bodies after death and conducting burials as quickly as possible.

  • The new site will help them more "freely" practice their faith and culture, Imam Younes Ali Younes tells Axios.

State of play: Currently, the group conducts burials at the public Glendale Cemetery, as well as the Bosnian cemetery in Prole.

  • Two years ago, Younes started fundraising to purchase 25 acres of land in Prole to build the center's own cemetery, as well as land to be used for the community.
  • It cost around $800K.

By the numbers: The cost for burials in DSM averages around $6,000, Younes says.

  • Now, Younes estimates it will only cost $1,000 for families because the center will handle the services themselves and they already own the plots.

Zoom in: A crying widow once came up to him and said if she didn't find the money, her husband's body would have to be cremated, which is forbidden in Muslim faith, Younes says.

  • While they were able to fundraise enough to help her out, the new land will make those situations easier, he says.

What they're saying: Des Moines' growing Afghan community will also utilize an acre of the cemetery. It will be a big financial relief for grieving families, Ahmad Tamim Sahel, president of the Iowa Afghan Community & Cultural Organization group, tells Axios.

The big picture: The center itself will use an acre of land for a cemetery, but the rest could be used for anything else, including a soccer field or a health clinic.

  • "It's not only for the dead, but also for the living," Younes says.

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