WATERLOO --- Black Hawk County made an exception to its burial assistance policy to accommodate a Muslim service.
Members of the county Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to make an exception to the county's policy for indigent burials, agreeing to provide $775 in assistance for an opening and closing in the Islamic Cemetery on Osage Road.
Long-standing county practice has been to provide $1,000 to funeral homes to cover services for deceased people whose families lack the resources to pay for the costs themselves. The county also provides $775 for the burial costs, but only when the gravesite is in the county-owned Shaulis Road Cemetery.
Ibrahim Shehata, president of the Islamic Cemetery Association, appealed the policy on behalf of an individual buried in the Islamic Cemetery on Osage Road, noting Muslims would be using the Islamic Cemetery based on religious and cultural difference related to the burial practices.
"The purpose for us is to bury Muslims in the Muslim cemetery with the ceremonies," Shehata said.
Shehata said the nonprofit Islamic Cemetery Association would be picking up the majority of the estimated $1,800 closing costs even with the county's contribution. And the county would face the $750 cost anyway if the burial occurred in the Shaulis Road cemetery.
"This is not something new," Shehata added, noting the county has made three similar exemptions in the past 10 years.
Supervisors John Miller, Craig White and Scott Jordan voted in favor of the exception, while Tom Little and Frank Magsamen voted against it.
Little said he was concerned about setting a precedent that could lead to similar requests. But he said the county should review the policy to see if it should be changed.
"Policies are made," Little said. "Sometimes they need to be tweaked a little bit to keep up with the times."
Magsamen said he didn't believe the county should veer from the policy established for the county relief operations, which includes using the county cemetery.
"If they choose to have it at a different cemetery, that's their decision and should be their responsibility," he said.