Funeral Industry News

Virginia Woman Decides Hating The Dead Is UnChristian; Finds Burial Spot For Bombing Suspect

May 11, 2013

Virginia Woman Decides Hating The Dead Is UnChristian; Finds Burial Spot For Bombing Suspect

In a moment of Christian/Muslim unity, the body of Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has been buried in Virginia. It happened so quietly that even officials in the community where the cemetery is located had no idea until after the burial was over. Officials in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the body was held at a funeral home for a week, didn’t make an announcement until after the body was underground.

The arrangement was made through a Richmond, VA resident, Martha Mullen, who was upset over reports on National Public Radio about a week of protests outside of the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlor. Funeral director Peter Stefan frantically tried to find a burial site for the suspect but was rejected by cemeteries in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey, including those in the cities of Cambridge and Boston.

Mullen told the Boston Globe about her reaction to the protests:

“It portrayed America at its worst. The fact that people were picketing this poor man who was just trying to help [funeral director Peter Stefan] really upset me… Jesus says [to] love our enemies. So I was sitting in Starbucks and thought, maybe I’m the one person who needs to do something.”

After searching for organizations that could help, she emailed ‘Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia.’ Within an hour, they responded with the offer of a burial plot. A spokesperson for the organization said:

“What Tsarnaev did is between him and God. We strongly disagree with his violent actions, but that does not release us from our obligation to return his body to the earth.”

That statement rather precisely echoes Martha Mullen’s feelings about the matter. She feels it was the right thing to do. In her interview with the Globe, Mullen didn’t say that the demonstrations weren’t who we are; she said they portrayed America at its worst.

Part of who Americans are involves the same kind of self-righteous fanaticism that we criticize in others. Hatred, bigotry, and the impulse for violence are expressed in our society every day. The fact that we don’t desecrate the remains of our enemies in the streets, like some cultures do, is thanks to people like Mullen who express the better part of who we are.

Not everyone is happy about the outcome. Officials of Caroline County, where the cemetery is located, have asked Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to check on whether all the laws were followed. County Sheriff Tony Lippa, Jr. said:

“I know of no Virginia law enforcement agency that was notified of this event. It caught all of us off guard. None of us know anything about this. Had we known ahead of time, it would have raised other questions.”

But the fact is, as reported by the Globe, the county doesn’t usually involve itself in burials. As a matter of fact, some officials didn’t even know that a Muslim cemetery existed within Caroline County’s confines. Sheriff Lippa has assigned a deputy to the cemetery and he also felt the need to remind people that disturbing a grave is a felony. That move addresses the lower impulses of the nation’s citizens.

The higher impulses are addressed by a statement from Martha Mullen, released by the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond:

“Jesus tells us, ‘Love your enemies,’ not to hate them after they’re dead.”