In response to a growing Muslim population in the south metro, the Islamic Institute of Minnesota plans to open a funeral facility in Burnsville that will be used to prepare the dead for burial.

The City Council on Monday night unanimously approved a conditional use permit for the institute to buy a building just off Hwy. 13 at 12th Avenue.

It will be used to bury Muslims in the Garden of Eden Cemetery, which is two blocks away from the funeral home, said Mohamed Elakkad, a director of the nonprofit Islamic Institute of Minnesota, which owns the cemetery and will buy the building in Burnsville.

Several council members voiced their convictions at the meeting that communities must provide places for all people to exercise religious beliefs. Elakkad thanked them on behalf of the Muslim community.

The funeral home will be used for the sacred Islamic ritual of washing the dead. Until the space is ready, the Muslims will continue to use their only other metro washroom, in a mosque in Columbia Heights.

In Minnesota, also home to many Hmong people, the emergence of new ethnic funeral homes has displayed, in brick and mortar, the state's changing demographics. Elakkad estimated there are about 700 Muslims in Burnsville and 142,000 statewide.

"When there is enough population, we will open a second [Islamic] cemetery," he said after the City Council meeting Monday night. The institute also owns a cemetery in White Bear Lake but doesn't use it yet.

The institute also owns two cemeteries that are used by all denominations: Pleasantview Cemetery, next to Garden of Eden in Burnsville, and Evergreen Cemetery in Roseville.

Muslims try to bury their dead within six hours of death, using a bottomless vault with the deceased facing Mecca, according to Islamic belief. It is against Islamic belief to embalm bodies, so the body is wrapped in a kafan, or shroud, which is usually three layers of white cloth.

The Minnesota Health Department has worked closely with the Minnesota Islamic Cemetery Association to meet the cultural needs of Islamic rites and customs used to bury the dead.

The new mosque and funeral home will not be used for funeral gatherings, but for the ceremonial washing, for prayer services that typically occur midday on Fridays and for children's weekend classes. It will also be used for two important Islamic feasts a year.

Elakkad assured council members that there would be no outdoor calls to prayer or bells.

Joy Powell • 952-882-9017