Cemetery will reopen after work is completed

Ira Porter
Delaware News Journal
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

A Muslim cemetery near Port Penn was ordered closed last month, but will be allowed to bury one person after a special request.

Work will begin to rectify those deficiencies after Friday’s burial of 1-year-old Ja-Ziyah Gordon.

Ja-Ziyah is in a Philadelphia Hospital where doctors have told her parents that there is nothing they can do to treat her heart and lung condition. She will be taken off life support.

“Going back and forth through it, we’ve been trying to do anything that we can to make sure she has a proper burial,” said Malik Gordon, her father. Gordon, who lives in Elkton, has five daughters.

He said that he was grateful a special permit was given to bury his child in the Muslim tradition.

Islamic burials happen 24-72 hours after a death, after their body is washed one final time and wrapped, Gordon and the Imams said. All but the face is covered and a ritual prayer is said.

The Muslim Cemetery of Delaware, at Port Penn and Pole Bridge roads, is legally permitted and can continue burying people without special permission once safety concerns are met, said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer said during a press conference.

Among the things that the cemetery is asked to do is pave a road into the property and provide parking.

The county last week had sent the cemetery operated by A Light of Hope a cease-and-desist order because it failed a code inspection.

“It was a misunderstanding. We felt like we met all the requirements, but there were a little more,” said Imam Muhammad Salaam of the Muslim Center of Wilmington.

“The thing about human error, you correct it if you are trying to be right before God and be right before your fellow man.”

The issue was brought to the county’s attention after Rep. Kevin Hensley, whose district the cemetery is in, issued a Facebook post saying that he had gotten multiple calls and emails about suspicious activity at the site of the cemetery.

Hensley initially put incorrect information online saying that the cemetery would be required to go through a rigorous zoning process, but took the statement off of his page.

The Islamic Cemetery of Delaware did have a certificate of registration for a cemetery from the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

Imam Rudolph Ali of the Muslim Center of Wilmington acknowledged that the property presented a safety risk in its current state.

“It was a misunderstanding. It happens, but everything is good today,” Ali said. Ali said the day complaints were made against the cemetery was particularly rainy and muddy.

There is no paved entrance road so visitors had to park on the side of the shoulder. Wooden pallets were placed down over the mud for people to walk on.

Contact Ira Porter at 302-324-2581 or iporter@delawareonline.com

Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Malik Gordon will bury one of his daughters at The Muslim Cemetery of Delaware near Port Penn.