The leaders of a tiny upstate town some 180 miles from Ground Zero are demanding that a Muslim group dig up and remove two bodies they buried on their land.Read more from the Daily News article.
This really got my goat, astaghfir’allah! Such an obvious case of ignorance and bigotry as I just find it has to be commented on. A few years ago I was asked to look into providing a cemetery at the intentional spiritual community where I live, also in upstate New York. At the time I contacted the New York State Division of Cemeteries and was informed that the state does not regulate religious cemeteries. As long as there is no zoning restrictions then there should be no problem. I contacted the town and at the time cemeteries were an allowed use in residential zoning. (Now I think they have redone the zoning and a special use permit is needed.) I also contacted my county’s health department and an official there told me there is no special restrictions as to location of a cemetery but that there were certain requirements about the way the grave should be prepared. However those were waived if there was a religious reason.
When I saw the headline of this article I was quite surprised. Any town “leader” who makes such a statement or demand without knowing the law is already proving him or herself to be a liability. With all due respect if I were in that position I would make sure that at least I was informed about the pertinent laws and then try to be conscious of my motives before making such a declaration.
As you read the article you will find that the group did follow all the necessary regulations of the town, filed all the proper papers and in every case were approved for the burials and for the placement of the cemetery. If there were any problems with this, the town would have objected then, when the applications were made.
I think it is clear that this is a case of religious bigotry. The timing of the demand being one of the incriminating factors and the singling out of this group is another. I am quite sure that the town leaders did not go around to any other religious organizations such as local churches or synagogues or camps and retreat centers and ask them to remove bodies from church side graveyards, which could also be said to exist on “private property”. Fear is a strong motivator and when combined with ignorance and hate it becomes dangerous.
I will keep following this story, I hope that the sufi group refuses and stands up for their rights. I think the town leaders owe the Naqshibandi group an apology. I also think that all the religious leaders in the town and county should write to the Town of Sydney leaders and demand an apology. If you want to write to the town of Sydney leaders here is their address:
Town of Sydney
Sydney Town Hall
Civic Center, 21 Liberty Street
Sydney, NY 13838
Supervisor – Bob McCarthy
Town Clerk – Lisa French
Town Council – Eric Wilson, C. Peter Cordes, John Schaeffer, Paul Hamilton, Sr.
Code Enforcement Officer – Dale R. Downin