Burying Tamerlan Tsarnaev

May 16 2013 - 2:54pm

For almost a week, the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers, remained at a funeral home in Massachusetts because no cemetery or community would accept it. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, D, was right when he said the search for a resting place had become a "circus" and a disservice to the victims of the April 15 bombing, which killed three people and left more than 260 wounded.

That's why a handful of public officials and private citizens in Virginia deserve credit for ending the circus, both by providing a burial spot for Mr. Tsarnaev in a small Muslim cemetery north of Richmond and by tempering their public comments on an issue that could easily have become inflamed.

No one relishes the idea of playing host in perpetuity to a terrorist. And it's fair to worry that his grave site could become a place of pilgrimage for jihadists -- though they'd risk attracting FBI surveillance -- or a draw for vandals.

But exporting Mr. Tsarnaev's corpse for burial in Russia or elsewhere, as some suggested, was a non-starter. In accordance with Islamic precepts, he was entitled to be laid to rest. And so he was last week, at Al-Barzakh Cemetery in Doswell.

A mental health counselor in Richmond, Martha Mullen, had made inquiries on her own initiative to find a place that would accept Mr. Tsarnaev for burial. She was put in touch with Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which runs the cemetery in Doswell. Officials of that group unequivocally condemned the Boston bombing but affirmed their duty to lay the alleged bomber's body to rest.

Local residents and officials, who received no advance notice of the burial, were angry. But the possibility of an uproar, which would have served no legitimate purpose, was checked with the help of the local sheriff, Tony Lippa, and Mayor David Storkeof nearby Bowling Green, the Caroline County seat, who reviewed the paperwork and pronounced the burial legal.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, R, noted that the cemetery was private property and had acted within its rights. State police and sheriff's deputies have monitored the site to deter troublemakers, while suggesting that the cemetery hire private security.

Ms. Mullen, a Christian, said she had been the target of abuse for having acted to solve the problem. But she sounded a grace note. 

"Certainly [the Boston bombing] was a horrific act, but he's dead and what happened is between him and God," she told the Associated Press. "We just need to bury his body and move forward. People were making an issue and detracting from the healing that needed to take place."

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