SYDNEY - The Australian government's decision to allocate thousands of new burial plots for Muslim and Jewish communities was welcomed by Muslims who viewed the decision as ending years of concern about space shortages in New South Wales cemeteries.
"For us as a Muslim community ... the news is overwhelming, community leader Ahmad Kamaledine told reporters at New South Wales Parliament House, Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported on Monday, April 2.
The NSW government's decision was announced on Monday declaring the allotment of 6000 additional burial plots for Muslims.
The decision also specified 3000 for the Jewish community at Rookwood Necropolis in Sydney to address the space shortages.
Kamaledine noted that approximately 350 Muslim burials occur each year at Rookwood.
Working to secure burial plots for the past 12 years, he said that the decision saved the Muslim community from a dilemma.
In six months' (time) we had nowhere to go, he said.
The Muslim community will receive half of the land at Lot 10 in the NSW government-owned Rookwood Necropolis, accommodating 6000 people in double-depth plots.
The other half of Lot 10 will be used for 3000 single Jewish burial plots which will be protected in perpetuity, under Jewish requirements.
Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said the additional plots would relieve a long-standing problem for the state.
"This solves a very pressing problem in relation to burial space, particularly for these two religious faiths," she told reporters.
"We're very short of plots for Muslim burials, and this has been seen as a very urgent issue for the O'Farrell government."
Along with the allocated new plots for Muslims in New South Wales cemeteries, the Primary Industries Minister also announced the amalgamation of seven Rookwood Necropolis Trusts into two trusts.
"This will allow the leverage of capital to purchase burial plots into the future," Ms Hodgkinson said.
The Anglican, Muslim, Jewish, General and Independent Trusts will join with the Rookwood Necropolis Trust to form the Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust, while the Catholic Trust will remain separate.
The new law would replace more than 20 pieces of legislation now in place in NSW and would be developed within six to nine months, she added.
New South Wales is home to 168.788 Muslims, about 49.6 percent of the total population, making the state a habitat to the largest Muslim population, according to the 2006 government Census.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.