Monday, May 23, 2005

Once Muslim, Always Muslim?

More than once, Osama bin Laden has referred to the Reconquest of Spain as the "Andalucian Atrocity." The first time I heard him use that phrase, I thought that he was referring to a military defeat. Later I realized that he meant more than that: Muslims are duty bound to take back any land that was once under Muslim rule.
Now I'm wondering if that same principle could be applied to cemeteries here in the United States.
Note the following excerpts from :

Hindus, Muslims in Taj Mahal Tussle
By Palash Kumar
AGRA, India
"An ownership battle has erupted over the world's most famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal, as it celebrates its 350th anniversary. The magnificent 17th-century structure built by Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal, is owned and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India as a national monument. But the Sunni Waqf Board, which oversees Sunni Muslim graveyards and mosques throughout India, has staked a claim to the white-marble tomb, saying since the monument houses Muslim graves, the Taj belongs to it...."

Many cemeteries here in the D.C. area have Muslim sections. I believe that National Memorial Park in Falls Church has such a section. In other states, entire cemeteries are exclusively used for the burial of Muslims; one such proposed cemetery in Tennessee encountered citizen opposition, but I don't recall the outcome.

Yes, it sounds unreasonable to wonder if such a foothold in a cemetery presents a problem because Americans feel that different cultures should be allowed to bury their dead as they see fit, here on American soil. We respect the right of families to note the passing of loved ones, according to various cultural rituals. Do Muslims have a different view about the land on which their families are buried? After reading about the dispute over the Taj Mahal, "since the monument houses Muslim graves," I wonder if there might be a hidden agenda.

And what about the land on which sit various Saudi-owned institutions including schools, mosques, and businesses, even if those institutions promote activities which are treasonous and subversive in nature? My understanding is that Saudi owns the land itself. Is it against Muslim law for a non-Muslim organization to buy that land or for our government to seize that land, should the necessity arise? I've read--though I don't remember where--that once property is Muslim-owned, sharia law can be applied to that particular parcel of land, even if the nation itself is not a caliphate.

India is not a caliphate, yet the questioned ownership of the Taj Mahal may well go to that nation's Supreme Court. Again quoting from the above article: "Waqf Board Chairman Hafiz Usman said the body would do everything it could to establish its claim to the Taj and says 'we will go all the way to the Supreme Court to get the Taj.' The Waqf Board is also laying claim to 7 percent of the around $3 million paid annually by the 2.3 million tourists it draws each year."

Arabic, the language of Allah, doesn't have a past tense, at least not in the sense that we Westerners understand past tense. (See Raphael Patai's The Arab Mind) Such a linguistic anomaly goes far to explain why Muslims never see anything as over and done with. And if their preferred language doesn't have a past tense, can they ever, in the eyes of sharia law, ever cede that land to someone else?

We need to be careful about allowing Muslim ownership of land, particularly if such ownership can be used to justify, however obliquely, statements such as Osama bin Laden's. And, harsh as it may sound, we need to check our cemeteries too. The principles behind the dispute over the ownership of the Taj Mahal may, one day, extend to land here in the United States.

Many times, we learn after the fact about the far-reaching effects of Muslim laws and Muslim customs. I hope that United States land dedicated for cemeteries will not be justification for something we didn't expect. Such conflicts get very ugly.

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