Published On:16 April 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Muslim Cemetery Courtesy Of Jewish Brother

By Kole Shettima

Muslims, Christians and Jews are brothers and sisters. All trace their origins to Abraham (AS) according to the major religious books. Contrary to popular perception, historically, with two major exceptions, Muslims and Jews have lived together in peace until the Palestinian problem.
However, major news headlines are usually about inter-religious and intra-religious fights. Hate and hate rhetoric dominate conversation amongst adherents of these major religions.

A headline which bucks the trend is when the Muslim community in Toronto, Canada purchased their first cemetery. Funding came from a Jew, Yosi Behar, 68, who arranged for an interest free loan, as Islam requires, for the Toronto Muslim Cemetery Corp., which enabled it to buy a $6.8 million property from Beth Olam Cemetery Corporation, another Jewish organization.

It is 36- acre cemetery, and will hold 40,000 graves. The new cemetery will accommodate the needs of more than 300,000 Muslims for the next 25 years.

June 2012 is when the cemetery will start its operations. Mosques and individuals will purchase land from the Corporation while future plans call for a new Operations Centre with complete funeral services available on site.

The generosity of Mr. Behar is also matched by unity of the Muslim community, irrespective of sect. Shiites and Sunnis came together as Muslim community. It is also remarkable that Mr Behar was born in Israel which also defies the stereotyping of Jews born there as more conservative than those born outside.

At the groundbreaking ceremony Mr Behar remarked Muslims “are my instant family. The Sunni call me cousin, and the Shia call me brother. A Jewish guy from Israel managed to get [everyone] to hold hands and have a successful project.”

Sabi Ahsan, chair of the Toronto Muslim Cemetery Corporation, called the project an excellent example of unity, co-operation and goodwill. He added “Sunni and Shia Muslims from many countries and denominations put aside their differences, combining efforts to make this possible.”

The deal was struck at Mr. Behar’s home. Parties involved proceeded to a Sunni mosque to sign the documents. Mr. Behar served as a witness and signed his name in Hebrew on the papers.

Nigerians may ask what the big deal about Muslim cemetery is. It is a lot if you live in a country where you are a minority. Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada’s 32.8 million population although Islam is the number one non-Christian faith. (Jews constitute 1 percent of Canadians). It will make the lives of Muslims much easier.

Hitherto Muslims use non-denominational cemeteries which don’t necessarily conform to Muslims traditions. Some cemeteries don’t open over the weekend; most have closing hours; a person buried may not be tilted to face Mecca.

The cemetery will be the first in the area which manages services according to Muslim custom, operates on weekends and will have all graves correctly aligned toward Mecca. Muslims and Jews have burial rituals which are similar.

Mr Baher could have chosen to charge interest on the loan. If he charged 3 percent on the $6.8 million, he would probably have profited no less than $4 million over 25 years. Non-interest banking is another area where Islam and Judaism share common position.

In our tumultuous world where the headlines are about Muslims fighting Christians and vice versa or Muslims fighting Jews and vice versa or Shiites slaughtering Sunnis and vice versa, the story of the first Muslim cemetery in Toronto made possible by a Jew, and the unity of the Muslim community irrespective of sect to purchase the land is heartwarming and refreshing news.

This may be a small and isolated gesture compared to the situation in the Middle East but it is an important one.

May this story be an inspiration to the leaders of Israel and Palestine and to Nigerians, Muslims and Christians.

[Shettima, the Director of the MacArthur Foundation, wrote in from Abuja]

(Courtesy: Leadership, Nigeria)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on April 16, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on April 16, 2012. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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