Hindu-Muslim Family’s Choice of Cremation Arouses Anger
Those who have a gain to be had in a situation will jump the gun and make news to galvanize clout in the community. It is not just the Muslims, the Christians, Hindus, Jews and other faiths also have individuals who would use religion to their end. It is human to err and it is religious thing not to err.
Our communities need to be prepared for scenarios like this. A whole range of things can happen upon certain occurrences and can cause severe conflicts.
The kid is gone and the decisions about the last rites were made by others, it may be contrary to what the deceased want, or just exactly what he wanted or it did not matter to him. But it has become a matter to a few on either side of the issue.
It is critical to have a will, especially when there is a potential conflict. Ultimately it is the will that has to be honored. The kid is gone, the mother wants her way and a few others want theirs. I hope we all can pitch in our opinions and develop consensus for the sake smooth transitions.
The wisdom would require us to withhold judgment or public displays, as it would aggravate the situation. We need to find solutions that would include acceptability of it by the others.
Added: October 5, 2008
Several takes on the issue, each one has presented a valid idea.
Situations like this are bound to happen. Dallas alone has at least 50 couples that I know of who are married across the religions with various combinations. You got to admire them for their ability to accept each other's God given uniqueness, however, what happens to their bodies after their death or to their children remains open.
We can work on a broader issue to include a variety of contingencies like this. American Culture has the ability to cushion a variety of complexities; this one will become a conflictless issue over the next two generations.
The broader question is should the community be involved in private matters? After all Islam is about individual's responsibility. No one but you is responsible for your actions at the Day of Judgment. Should we be involved in conflicts like this? Involvement certainly does produce ill-will, is it worth it? What good will it do?
If we consciously develop a habit of writing a Will to cover every aspect of our life in case of terminal illness, death or accident, would some one still mess around? The courts will defend the written Will, but would the community defy it?
I invite one of our members to produce a document with every one's input and we can share it with the public at large- as guidance and not rule. A majority of Muslims, Hindus or Christians will be in favor of it, we need to prevent the right wingers to dig in their heels and develop a consensus.
My Comments in the comment section are responses to some of the comments
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New York Times
October 4, 2008
Hindu-Muslim Family’s Choice of Cremation Arouses Anger
By ANNE BARNARD
Friends and family remember Shafayet Reja as an affectionate young man who stayed up late to write poetry, danced exuberantly at weddings and explored the faiths of his father and mother with an openheartedness that led him to declare on his Facebook page, “I never get tired of learning the new things that life has to offer.”
But within hours of his death on Sept. 10 after a car accident, his memory — in fact, his very body — had become the object of a tug-of-war over religious freedom and obligation. It began when his mother, who was raised Hindu, and his father, who is Muslim, decided to have his body cremated in the Hindu tradition, rather than burying him in a shroud, as Islam prescribes.
His parents, Mina and Farhad Reja, say a small group of Muslims who do not understand their approach to religion are trying to intimidate them over the most private of family choices. “This is America,” Mrs. Reja said. “This is a family decision.”
The couple say that people accosted them at their son’s funeral, that an angry crowd threatened to boycott a shopping center they own in Jackson Heights, Queens, and that on Sept. 13, two men they know threatened to bomb and burn down the building.
The men they accused in a complaint filed with the police — one is a doctor and the father of a close friend of Shafayet Reja, the other a Bangladeshi business leader — say that they made no threats and deny that they have called for a boycott. They say they and others simply expressed their concern about what they see as a deep violation of their religion and of the wishes of the son, who, according to some of his college friends, had recently chosen Islam as his sole religion.
The Police Department’s hate crimes unit is investigating whether the threats took place, whether they would constitute aggravated harassment, and whether they qualify as bias crimes, which carry tougher penalties, a spokesman for the department said. No charges have been filed.
What is not in doubt is that the episode is a source of consternation, from the Queens neighborhoods where Mr. Reja’s parents live and work to their native Bangladesh, one of the world’s most populous Muslim countries, where it has been national news.
The dispute has especially swept up several bustling blocks in Jackson Heights, where dozens of businesses are Bengali. It had business owners on edge during the busy shopping season before this week’s Id al-Fitr festival. The festival marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and brings throngs of shoppers to dine and to buy jewelry and sparkling traditional dresses.
The neighborhood is a place where business rivalries and family arguments often intersect with disputes over Bangladesh politics, especially in the case of Mrs. Reja, a prominent property owner and outspoken advocate of the rights of Bangladesh’s religious minorities. Her 1999 self-published book, “God on Trial,” angered some Muslims in the neighborhood with its critique of Islamic fundamentalism.
The cremation dispute goes to the heart of a debate among Muslims in America about what makes someone a Muslim — to some of the critics, the fact that Shafayet Reja listed Islam as his religion on Facebook is enough — and how to reconcile this country’s freedom of religion with what some Muslims see as a communal obligation to uphold religious observance.
But to the family, the dispute is a frightening imposition that they say violates their civil rights.
“We have freedom of religion, and we have the Constitution,” said the Rejas’ son Mishal, 19, who studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “Why would they bother us? It’s none of their business. Even if he was the most hard-core Muslim.”
To some Muslims, the fact that Shafayet Reja prayed and attended mosques trumps his family’s wishes.
“It was the community’s business because the community knew he was a Muslim,” said Junnun Choudhury, secretary of the Jamaica Muslim Center, one of several mosques around the city whose worshipers came to the funeral to plead with the family. “It is our job to bury him in the Muslim way.”
Neither he nor any other mosque leader has been accused of making threats, and there have been no further protests.
Abu Zafar Mahmood, an adviser to the Jackson Heights Bangladeshi Business Association, said he was disturbed by the cremation but was urging people not to confront Mrs. Reja. “It would be harmful,” he said. “We have a multicultural community.”
Mrs. Reja said she brought up her children by attending both Hindu temples and Muslim mosques. “Humanism is what I taught my children,” she said. “I want to see my son as a perfect human being, and not as a perfect religious person.”
Whether or not her son was beginning to move closer to Islam is another thread in the tangle of hurt feelings and disagreements.
Shafayet Reja, 22, graduated from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2007. He was living with his parents in Richmond Hill, studying to be a licensed insurance broker.
He was also spending a lot of time at the Long Island home of Dr. Khondeker Masud Rahman — who was eventually accused of threatening his parents — and Dr. Rahman’s daughter, Farah, a friend from Stony Brook.
Farah Rahman said that he had begun praying more often and talking to Dr. Rahman about Islam, and that he had quarreled with his mother, saying she blamed the religion unfairly for the mistakes of some of its followers. He had even, she said in an interview, mentioned that he wanted a Muslim burial. His family members and childhood friends say he would have wanted his mother to choose.
On Sept. 2, Shafayet Reja broke the daily Ramadan fast with friends at Stony Brook’s Muslim Students Association. Afterward, Farah Rahman was in the car behind his when he lost control on a wet road. He was hospitalized, and died on Sept. 10 without regaining consciousness.
When word spread that the family would hold both Muslim and Hindu rites for their son and then have him cremated, the Rahmans and others were upset. Father and daughter both asked the family to give him a Muslim burial. They said the conversations were polite; the Rejas said they were hostile.
Several dozen people, including the imams of the Jamaica Muslim Center and other mosques, came to the funeral home in Richmond Hill on Sept. 12, to attend the Muslim rite and express objections to the cremation. The Rejas say people crowded around them to press their case as they wept beside their son’s body. “I was having my last moment with my son,” Mrs. Reja said. “What gave them the guts to do that?”
The funeral staff called the police in part because the Rejas feared the crowd would try to block the hearse going to the crematorium. Mishal Reja stood in the door of the funeral home, asked the group to leave the family in peace, and promised he would try to get the cremation canceled — just to get them to leave, he said. The crowd dispersed peacefully.
Later that day, Dr. Rahman, an anesthesiologist at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Jackson Heights, spoke to a group of people breaking the daily Ramadan fast at a restaurant across the street from the family’s Bangladesh Plaza mall.
According to the Rejas, and a report in a local Bengali-language newspaper, he called for a boycott of the mall and for shop owners there to stop paying rent, though he denied that in an interview.
Afterward, some of the people from the restaurant gathered outside the mall, waving their sandals in an insulting gesture and threatening to boycott the mall, according to two men who run shops there, who did not want to be quoted by name for fear of damaging business relationships. One said that at least one person in the crowd threatened to burn the building.
In the crowd, according to the merchants, was the secretary of the Jackson Heights Bangladeshi Business Association, Zakaria Masud. Mr. Masud, too, denied calling for a boycott, but said that protesting the cremation was “a social obligation and a religious obligation.”
The next day, Mina Reja held a press conference at the mall, at which she denounced the critics and asked for privacy.
Afterward, according to complaints the Rejas made to the police, Dr. Rahman told Mishal Reja, “We will bomb your building,” and Giash Ahmed, a real estate broker and former Republican candidate for state senator, told Farhad Reja it would be burned.
Dr. Rahman and Mr. Ahmed said in interviews that they never threatened anyone and were not even at the mall that day. Mr. Ahmed said Mrs. Reja’s decision was her business.
Dr. Rahman said expressions of anger at Mrs. Reja should wait: “She should have a time of healing.” He accused her of orchestrating the scandal and fabricating the threat.
Meanwhile, under the neon signs and rainbow lights of Bangladesh Plaza, shopkeepers worry that a boycott even by part of the community will hurt their holiday business.
“Why should they involve people who are not involved? How will we survive?” one of the shop owners said. Another said of the cremation: “It’s a family matter. The parents, they decide.”
Toby Lyles contributed research.
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August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
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Mirza A Beg
PLANNED MUSLIMS RESPONSE TO QUR'AN BURNING BY PASTOR JONES ON 9/11/13 IN MULBERRY, FLORIDA
We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.
Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.