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Corporal work of mercy up for discussion UPDATE 2

Burying the dead is among the corporal works of mercy. One brave funeral director agreed to prepare the body for a Muslim burial, but it is Tamerlan Tsarnaev, terrorist number 1. There are protests. So far no cemetery has agreed to take the body. Carry on Worcester, Massachusetts; do the right thing. The man is dead. Story here.UPDATE: Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, arrived in Worcester on Sunday to wash the body of his nephew according to Islamic custom. After completing this task with friends who assisted him, he had this to say, " A dead person needs to be buried thats what tradition requires, thats what religion requires, thats what morals require. Yes, indeed.Still no cemetery available. Story here.End of story: He was finally buried on May 9 or 10 in a small Muslim cemetery in Virginia.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Has Tamerlan's widow considered burying her husband in West Roxbury?"Al-Marhama is the only sharia-compliant funeral & burial service in Massachusetts."

According to news reports, Mrs. Tamerlan, who was identifying herself by her maiden name, refused to have anything to do with the disposition of the body, leaving it up to her in-laws to deal with it. My guess is that she hopes to fade into the background to protect her daughter from unwarranted attention.I truly hope, wherever the body is buried, it will remain undisturbed. Don Marxhausen, Lutheran pastor who held a private service for killer Dylan Klebold after Colombine noted that the boy was cremated and could not go into a cemetery. He took a good deal of flak for doing the service. "Christ always goes where it's darkest. You do your job," he said. Interesting but sad story about Adam Lanza's burial arrangements which mentions Klebold and other killers here:

Interesting article on the front page of the NYT about the Widow Tsarnaev: "From 'Social Butterfly' to Boston Suspect's Widow." (Interesting reader comments, too.)I wonder if she "was identifying herself by her maiden name" or media who chose to do that to her.

OK, I'll bite cuz I love a good conspiracy rant: Why would the media "choose to do that [identify her by her maiden name] to her"? General media ethics (pause for laughter from the scornful) requires reporters to call people by the names/labels they prefer. The AP Stylebook is constantly updating references to various religious and ethnic groups based on complaints and requests from those groups. Perhaps allowing people to use the names and monikers they prefer is a corporal act of mercy?

Question: Do women keep their family names in Islam?

I don't think calling people by the names they prefer rises to the level of a corporal work of mercy. Simple politeness would be more like it.As to "Katie," as her lawyer calls her? He's preparing future jurors to like her, trying to humanize (or ummanize) her. The NYT calls her "Ms. Russell." Maybe to sell more papers by presenting a sympathetic figure, a former social butterfly whose father went to Exeter, but whose husband put her on food stamps. Many angles to explore. (Including naming conventions for Muslim wives/mothers.)

I was so excited when I saw this title on Commonweal. I am from the Boston area. Admittedly we have been through a lot. Much that has happened can never be explained. However, I have been most distressed by the silence of those in positions of authority, and I include Church authority, about these protests regarding the burial. Burying the dead IS a corporal work of mercy. It is the last pro-life act we offer each other. I hear much about the New Evangelization which I understand means to bring the Gospel into the marketplace. We are not yet finished with Easter time. We must remember how Joseph of Arimathea stepped forward to provide a burial place for Jesus who had been executed as a common criminal. Mr. Stefan is to be applauded and supported. This is not the first time he has done something like this. You can read more about him here: My take is that Mr. Stefan well understands the new evangelization and the corporal works of mercy, regardless of his faith background.I guess my disappointment is that basically this was a link to another article with an invitation to comment without any input, reflection.

Sad commentary on the loss of the sense of the sacred. He, like everyone else, is entitled to a decent appropriate burial according to the customs of his faith. If the Romans would have acted like some of the people in the story , they would never have permitted Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus. Even the US government afforded bin Laden a burial according to Islamic custom.I see no legitimate reason that a cemetery should prohibit his body from being laid to rest. There are laws against the desecration of graves, there should be laws against arbitrary refusal unless the cemetery is set aside for exclusive religious adherents but, certainly, other cemeteries should be made available.There was concern that bin Laden's burial would become a shrine which is why they opted for the burial at sea (apparently permissible under Islamic law) but Tsarnaev is nowhere near that league.

Margaret, good question re names.Twenty minutes of idle browsing reveals that Shaykh Munajjid (who operates something akin to Catholic Answers for Muslims) says a husband cannot and should not urge his wife to change her name to his:, over at IslamiCity, a site that for those interested in converting to Islam, a similar question gets a different answer that suggests that local practices might be followed: Tsarnaev's mother has been identified in the as Zubeidat Tsarnaeva (the feminine version of her husband's name), even though she and her husband are divorced. The family is Chechyan/European, not Middle Eastern, so maybe that makes a difference.Muslim women in south Asia also often take their husband's names or use both their maiden and married names (a la Hilary Rodham Clinton).In any case, protesting at the funeral home and cemetery that Tamerlan Tsarnaev is "being taken care of" while the people of Boston are still suffering is both a sin and a stupidity. Tsarnaev has paid for whatever crimes he committed with his life. I'm not sure why it is an outrage to let his body return to the earth and his soul to God.

Re: "Question: Do women keep their family names in Islam?" @05/04/2013 - 2:25 pm Yes, they do, at least according to a Muslim woman friend who does so; likewise her mother who came to the US in her sixties. It seemed such a contrary custom to me, considering the arranged marriage of her mother, and the cultural, legal and religious restrictions on women in her society.

G: "The NYT calls her Ms. Russell. Maybe to sell more papers by presenting a sympathetic figure, a former social butterfly whose father went to Exeter, but whose husband put her on food stamps. Many angles to explore."Right. The Times refers to everyone by Mr. Ms. Mrs. Dr., etc., after the first mention when the whole name is used... As I recall they referred to Osama bin Landen as Mr. bin Laden.

Mary Sweeney,In fairness to Peggy Steinfels, she did offer commentary: "Carry on Worcester, Massachusetts; do the right thing. The man is dead."I would not mistake terseness for a lack of feeling. In a few words, the post has put forward the several essential elements. Thank you, however, for adding your own good thoughts here, which have enriched the discussion.

Margaret:True that the NYT, like most papers, uses honorifics. (Although they dropped the Mr. for bin Laden when bin Laden was dropped into the ocean.) I was pointing out that Katie was called Ms. Russell in this morning's story instead of Ms. Tsarnaev. And I was wondering when/if she announced to media that she had not taken her husband's name at the time of her conversion/submission. notice in Vows that more and more women are keeping their names. (And more and more officiants at weddings are Universal Life Ministers. And more and more marriages are "mixed" in ways our grandparents would never have imagined. Etc.)Good thing, imho. Genealogy is hard when female ancestors' names are lost. As to the burial of the killer, Tamerlan? "Let the dead bury the dead." (Luke 9:60)

At risk of stating the obvious, George D has summarized everything useful that need be said about this issue. A young man, likely as ignorant as the rest of us in youth, went looking for wisdom and found horror. Tragically he vented that horror not merely on himself but on others. In the tradition of all who find no use in a God not reflective of mercy all that remains of him is a thing we call a soul. Short of prayer we mere mortals have no means whatever to affect that soul. In fact in the end it is God alone who determines their effect.Bury the young man's body and let's hope other young men meet better mentors in their youth. Those who see violent death as martyrdom rather than the pointless loss of a remarkable gift are seldom moved by condemnation.

There is a kind of profile of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (terrorist number 2) in the Times (May 5). I say kind of because it's made up of quotes from former teachers, friends and acquaintances. It is rightly titled "Dark Side" in that we find out how little anybody really knows about him. What struck me was the "Mr. Cool" aspect of his "self-presentation" to teachers and friends. What if this is the "real" person absorbing from our mores and culture what is expected of adolescent boys with little sense of ethics or responsibility (except to his older brother).

"It seemed such a contrary custom to me, considering the arranged marriage of her mother, and the cultural, legal and religious restrictions on women in her society."Carolyn, if you read the response about this in IslamiCity, you'll see that Muslims view women keeping their own names as a sign of freedom and self-determination. There are also interesting theological ideas about why women are encouraged to keep their birth names. Maybe that's spin, but the Muslim restrictions we hear about may be overstated for our own political purposes, no? Made me reassess my own assumptions, anyway.

Margaret, a Muslim client told me once that one's name is considered to be a gift from Allah and thus a woman should not change her name upon marriage. I don't know whether this is a pervasive custom.

62 million leads to "do muslim women change their name after marriage."(I haven't read all 62 million, but the ones I read seem to say that Muslim women should continue to be known by their fathers' names, rather than by their husbands'. (Daughter of, rather than wife of.)

From the limited amount I know about Islam, it seems that, contrary to what some Westerners think, women in Muslim culture are highly respected, though in some very restricted ways. I've never been able to figure out just what their highly respected characteristics are (except for being mothers), but Mohammed's own wife was a business woman, and he apparently respected that in her. In other words, her "place" wasn't restricted to the home. Maybe their categories just aren't the same as ours. At any rate, I wish I could figure them out. Their attitudes to women seem so contradictory at times. There are deep differences among the various strains of Islam, and that might explain the oppositions, but who knows.

It would indeed be merciful for one of the Catholic cemeteries in the area to donate a plot for Tsarnaev's body.

FWIW - in the spirit of Nothing ventured, etc., I've sent an email to the bishop of Worcester, MA, suggesting that he donate a plot at one of the local Catholic cemeteries to help out this courageous funeral director.

A dead person needs to be buried thats what tradition requires, thats what religion requires, thats what morals require. Yes, indeed.Those who wish to contribute to a fund to fly Tamerlan's body to Russia will find information at the link below. (The man organizing the fund raising will announce details today.)

FWIW in the spirit of Nothing ventured, etc., Ive sent an email to the bishop of Worcester, MA, suggesting that he donate a plot at one of the local Catholic cemeteries to help out this courageous funeral director.The four Muslim cemeteries Peter Stefan has approached have turned him down. Maybe your bishop will donate a plot in your area.

JP: Thanks for your update. Would you like to share the bishop's e-mail for those who would like to ask him to make a plot available.

Margaret - I sent it to the email address listed on the Contacts page of the Worcester diocese website. Of course, dotCom readers are welcome to do as they wish, but could a barrage, or even a mini-blitz, of emails be counter-productive? I'm not sure on that point. He's already received one email from an "outsider" (i.e. I don't live in that diocese). If there are any Worcester residents reading this, your bishop may like to hear from you.

Re: emails to Bishop McManus of Worcester -- he may be a bit preoccupied today:

Oy vey!!! Or, maybe a cemetery plot could be part of his community service.

I have read somewhere that (Palestinian only?) Muslim mothers take a last name that means "mother of ..." when they have their first son, but I can't find any reference. Matthew Beynon Rees has written a 4-book "Omar Yussef" mystery series in which that was mentioned ... but I'm not going to re-read the entire 4 books to quote chapter and verse.

Jim:I cant image the protests from Catholics and Muslims if a Muslim were to buried in a Catholic cemetery. I have to keep reminding myself: Its not a perfect world.Speaking of protests: the Westboro Baptist Church is going to protest at the funereal services of Bishop McFadden of Harrisburg, who died of a heart attack last Friday. Why the protest? The Catholic Church is not doing enough against pedophiles priests., it is an Arabic naming convention. "A kunya (pronounced COON-yah), an honorific name or surname, as the father or mother of someone; e.g., abu Da'ud [the father of David], umm Salim [the mother of Salim]. It is meant as a prefix of respect or reverence. Married persons (especially married ladies) are, as a general rule, simply called by their kunya (abu or umm + the name of their first son). When using a person's full name, the kunya precedes the personal name: Abu Yusuf Hasan [the father of Joseph, Hasan], Umm Jafar Aminah [the mother of Jafar, Aminah]."(When Morsi was elected President of Egypt, supposedly his wife said she would continue to be known as umm Whatever, rather than as First Lady or some other western title. This was reported, not shown.)

Jack - if you hear a rattling sound, that's the sound of my head shaking upon reading that article. Oy indeed! Helen - would it be taken as a sign of disrespect if he were buried in a Catholic cemetery? Maybe not such a good idea?

Antigone was my favorite role model when I was 15. But apparently those heroes don't exist any more. Now "prudence" trumps what tradition, religion, morals require.

Antigone! Just who is needed.

If nothing else, offering a plot in the Catholic cemetery might make the recalcitrant Muslim cemetery director's rethink their original decision.

Antigone, did the moral thing by providing her brother with burial rites.But, who would be willing to pay the price that she did? that:Some individuals had offered private plots in New Hampshire, New Jersey and Ohio, the Globe reported, but the Tsarnaev familys preference is burial in a Muslim-designated plot in Massachusetts.

There are times when some element of compromise is in order, i.e., "Tsarnaev familys preference is burial in a Muslim-designated plot in Massachusetts.The first part may be possible if "Muslim-designate" can be an ad hoc designation.Massachusetts? Therein may lie the rub.

The body has been "entombed" (whatever that may mean) at an unidentified location outside of Massachusetts.

He was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Va.

Thanks for the update. The story had this: "Martha Mullen followed the story from her home in Richmond, Va., and asked local religious leaders if they could think of anywhere Mr. Tsarnaev could be laid to rest.Jesus tells us, Love your enemies, not to hate them after theyre dead, said Ms. Mullen, according to a statement provided by the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond.She received an offer from the Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, a small organization that runs a cemetery with several dozen plots in Doswell, an unincorporated village with less than 2,000 people that is best-known as the home of the Kings Dominion theme park. The organization worked with the Worcester police, the Worcester funeral director, Peter A. Stefan, and Mr. Tsarni to make arrangements."Let's hope the grave is left in peace.

You're welcome. Now it looks like the Tsarnaevs were involved in earlier murders:

There is this from the NY Times story:"The burial came as a surprise to officials in the Doswell area."Caroline County was not consulted or given any input into the decision-making process for determining a burial site for this individual, Charles M. Culley Jr., the administrator for the county where the cemetery is located, said in a statement. We had no advance notice of the decision and unfortunately learned of the selection of a burial site through the media."

And who is objecting? More here: Worcester funeral director, "Peter Stefan said Monday he may not agree with how things were done when the Boston Marathon bombing suspect was buried last week in Virginia, but it was legal."Stefan's comments come as a group critical of the burial says it wants the body disinterred and sent elsewhere. The chairman of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force called the burial "an awful sneak attack."Anti-Shariah Task Force? Who be they.

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