As I write this, the burial arrangements for Marathon bombing terrorist Tamerlan Tsarnaev are incomplete. The Islamic Society of Boston released a statement Wednesday saying if asked they would provide burial rite services to him, "As it is a community obligation to bury the dead." Whether this means a funeral, burial, or both is not clear.
No matter how horrific his deeds, Tamerlan is entitled to a burial. However, it should not be in hallowed ground. For me, that means the city of Boston and the surrounding area. It would be an insult to the victims and their loved ones. Frankly, I think it's a bad idea to bury him anywhere in the country. His final resting place could also become a shrine for future radical Islamists. If his loved ones truly feel sympathy for the victims they will inter Tamerlan's remains in his native home. The spectacle of a funeral in his Cambridge mosque would be terribly insensitive.
This would not be the first time that a religious organization had refused or limited their involvement in the burial of a mass killer. In 2009, the Archdiocese of New York refused to preside over a funeral mass for mobster John Gotti. In addition, the man Gotti murdered in a mafia power coup was denied burial in a Catholic ceremony and a funeral Mass because of his life of crime. Gambino family boss Paul Castellano was killed in 1985 on Gotti's orders and buried in a nonsectarian cemetery. At issue was a church precept called "scandal." This is the concept that by providing a funeral Mass to someone who lived outside of church teachings, the wrong message would be sent to the faithful.
In America, we pride ourselves on freedom of religion. Tamerlan's family is also entitled to exercise that right to bury their loved one. But, just because you have a right that doesn't always make it the right thing to do.
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