DC
05/14/2013 10:49 am ET Updated Jul 14, 2013

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's Virginia Grave Won't Become Memorial For Violent Jihadists, Says Al-Barzakh Cemetery Leader (PHOTOS)

DOSWELL -- The leader of an anti-Shariah group said Monday that the grave of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev could become a memorial for violent jihadists, but an operator of the Islamic cemetery said any efforts to turn the site into a shrine would be denied.

"I think it's the first step in establishing a monument to a jihadist," said James Lafferty, chairman of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, at a news conference near the cemetery Monday morning attended by about a dozen people, most of whom were members of the media.

But Bukhari Abdel-Alim, the vice president of the nonprofit Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which manages services for Al-Barzakh Cemetery, responded that he does not foresee outsiders trying to turn the grave into a shrine.

"That's something we would immediately stop," Abdel-Alim said.

But he added that Islam teaches that the dead have rights to a proper burial.

Abdel-Alim has become the leading voice for the cemetery and the nonprofit that oversees the burials. On Thursday, he escorted journalists to the cemetery where Tsarnaev is buried.

In the cemetery Thursday, loose dirt covered what appeared to be two new graves. A red flower had been placed at an unmarked site of what appeared to be a grave, but Abdel-Alim removed the flower, saying that it was against the cemetery's practice to allow such gifts because Islamic burials should be modest, with gifts given to the living, not the dead.

Abdel-Alim said there has been little noise at the burial site following the Thursday burial of Tsarnaev, other than media attention, and there has been no vandalism of the cemetery.

"We are going to work within the law and within the political system and do everything we can to have this criminal disinterred and disposed of someplace else," Lafferty said. "Just as innocent people in Boston were harmed by this man and his accomplices, innocent people in Doswell should not be forced to deal with the fallout of having this terrorist's body dumped in their midst."

Caroline County Sheriff A.A. "Tony" Lippa received paperwork from the cemetery owners to prove the burial was legal, including a death certificate and transport document. The sheriff said the paperwork is authentic and his department is no longer investigating.

"It's over," Lippa said.

Asked Monday for his thoughts on the burial, Gov. Bob McDonnell said, "That wouldn't have been my choice, but it's a private cemetery -- it's a religious cemetery.

"My understanding is we don't regulate those and it's really a matter of private property, and so that property owner made that choice," he added.

Officials in Caroline, along with neighbors and some Islamic leaders, have complained they received no notice before the burial.

Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are accused of setting off two bombs April 15 near the marathon finish line in an attack that killed three people and injured more than 260.

Peter Stefan, the director of the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, Mass., said he had the body for six days but couldn't find a city that would accept the remains.

"I had more doors shut on me across the country than I could care to count. Got no help from anybody up here," he said.

Stefan said the body ended up in Virginia through a legal process that allows the family to decide where remains will be buried. He said he wanted to inform the public in advance where the remains would be transported but did not do so because of a confidentiality agreement with the family.

Asked Monday whether the cemetery would consider burying the remains of a terrorist in the future, Abdel-Alim paused.

"That's a hard question," he said. "But hopefully, we will not have to deal with that ever again. I would rather there not be any more possible terror attacks or anything that any Muslim community has to really get involved with."

bshulleeta@timesdispatch.com

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Tamerlan Tsarnaev's Virginia Grave
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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
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Boston Marathon Bombings