Residents opposed to the creation of a Muslim cemetery on the outskirts of a conservation village attended a public meeting to voice their objections last night.

The villagers claim the burial ground would consume 31 acres of green belt land around Carmunnock, just six miles south of Glasgow city centre, effectively ending its status as a distinct village.

However, some Muslim leaders said they were cynical about the grounds for objection. One said he was concerned local communities suddenly became "tree-huggers" when proposals for Islamic places of worship or cemeteries go before planning authorities.

Leaders at Glasgow's Central Mosque want a new graveyard as the current cemetery at Cathcart is nearing capacity.

Residents in Carmunnock, which has a population of just 1400, have mobilised a campaign to stop Glasgow City Council approving the plan.

They insist there are alternative sites available for the project, including within Carmunnock Cemetery itself.

However, Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said that while he believes a row over a cemetery may be a first, objections are commonplace when new mosques are proposed.

He said: "What I find strange is that we're hearing an excuse that this is green belt land; broadly speaking, cemeteries do tend to be green.

"We've heard this from across the UK when new mosques have been proposed and suddenly a whole new breed of tree-huggers emerge, but never with cemeteries.

"The Muslim community in Glasgow has no great attachment to Carmunnock. It is not holy ground. But the problem we have is there are more and more older Muslims, more are dying and we need a burial ground."

The accusation of nimbyism was dismissed by Carmunnock Community Council, which said: "In fact we are urging the city council to offer the Muslim community a three-acre site in the existing Carmunnock Cemetery, which is large enough to service 30 years of burials, as a first step.

"We welcome the Muslim community to the existing Carmunnock Cemetery and this would protect the green belt. Carmunnock Community Council fully supports the Muslim community's request for a cemetery - however, we don't think that needs to be at the expense of the green belt and altering the nature of Carmunnock village."

Dr Mohammed Kausar, the general secretary of the Central Mosque in Glasgow, said: "We have taken into consideration every view. The council and the committees have gone into all the points."

However, the community council claims it has yet to be consulted on the plans and as the cemetery is to be created on a steep hill, it will be noticeable throughout the area.

It dismissed claims that a cemetery would protect the plot of green land from housing or industrial developments.

A spokesman said: "This is a complete red herring. There is no suggestion whatso- ever that there are altern- ative industrial or housing developments.

"This is unhelpful in having a mature, informed debate and verges on attempting to raise fears in the village."

Carmunnock, which lies within the city boundaries of Glasgow, is an ancient settlement which was used as a base by the Welsh saint Cadoc when converting the local population to Christianity 1500 years ago. The old village churchyard, which is no longer used for burials, includes a watch-house with original instructions for grave-watchers of 1828, when grave robbing was still widespread.