Beliefs Culture

How a proposed Muslim cemetery became a battleground for America’s soul (COMMENTARY)

A brown and parched corn field in Farmersville, Texas, on July 12, 2011. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Mike Stone
A brown and parched corn field in Farmersville, Texas July 12, 2011.  Photo courtesy REUTERS/Mike Stone

A brown and parched corn field in Farmersville, Texas, on July 12, 2011. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Mike Stone

(RNS) Farmersville, Texas, lies about 35 miles northeast of Dallas — a few hours from my home in Houston. So when I read that the city council had scheduled a special town hall meeting to address opposition to a Muslim cemetery, I decided to take a road trip to attend the meeting.

As I neared Farmersville I drove past quaint businesses, many of which were in residential buildings. I stopped in a gas station where the clerk said he hadn’t heard of the cemetery controversy but shared that his Hindu faith required him to be accepting of everyone.

I didn’t realize I wasn’t yet in Farmersville.

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I turned onto Texas State Highway 78 and drove through an increasingly rural landscape. The road went on for miles until signs for Farmersville finally began to appear.

I arrived late at Farmersville High School, the location of the meeting, and found a jam-packed parking lot. There were at least four police cruisers in the lot. Two officers directed me to park in a grassy area behind the school or in the church lot across the street.

I chose the back lot, half-kidding myself that it would make for a quicker escape, if necessary.

The temperature must have been in the 80s inside the school cafeteria. There were dozens of people in the hallways, the overflow from the cafeteria. The sound of makeshift paper fans waving back and forth filled the room. A line of people stood behind the microphone waiting for their turn to speak.

In the hallway a smiling woman manned a table with pamphlets extolling the town’s virtues. “Farmersville: Discover a Texas Treasure.”

The first speaker I heard complained to Imam Khalil Abdur-Rashid, the Islamic Association of Collin County representative, about what she understood to be the tenets of his faith.

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“It’s not your custom to bury caskets,” she said, referring to the prevalent and erroneous belief that Muslims, who sometimes bury their dead without coffins, may poison the drinking water. The potential pollution of the water was repeated over and over.

The imam assured the audience that cemetery planners were going “above and beyond” Texas state requirements. His voice was not as loud as that of a man in the back of the room who shouted, “You’re all liars!”

Farmersville is a town of about 3,300 with a median income of $42,000. Three-quarters of the residents are white. It’s typical of small-town America.

So is the protest really about Farmersville? Or is it about Islamophobia of the sort that has beset American towns for years? Are these the same angry people we see in towns across America, scared of cemeteries, scared of mosques, scared of Muslims?

The people in this rural part of Texas are not the first to fear the unfamiliar.

In his book “American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why,” Mark Stein examines the history of American bigotry. He quotes a 19th-century politician charging that Catholicism will rob Americans of our rights, and writes about a New York-based business owner who viewed Chinese immigrants as “ready and anxious” to step over Americans “to possess the land.”

At the town hall meeting, a woman faced Abdur-Rashid.

“Everywhere you have been you’ve caused some kind of problem,” she said. “It’s not going to happen in Farmersville.”

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“With all this opposition, why do you want to stay here?” asked another. It was a very serious question, a question that ignores the basic right of American Muslims to live their lives freely.

That’s what Islamophobia is really about: You don’t belong here. This is our land, our water, our beliefs, our country.

It’s a well-worn logic used by every discriminatory and hateful group. All this is mine and I will do whatever it takes to keep your hands off it.

Although such bigotry is part of our history, I believe justice is a fundamental American value. However, justice for victims of suspicion and prejudice has never been achieved without effort. I urge us all to strive to keep anti-Muslim rhetoric from becoming normalized. Islamophobia should never be acceptable.

At the town hall meeting, a Farmersville resident who opposes the cemetery told me she was suspicious of the Buddhist meditation center in town because they’re “too quiet.” She wasn’t too sure about the Mormon church either, because “they’re never there.”

Ruth Nasrullah. Photo courtesy Ruth Nasrullah.

Ruth Nasrullah. Photo courtesy of Ruth Nasrullah.

“When people are too quiet I think they’re up to something,” she said.

Raise your voices, Americans. For God’s sake, raise your voices.

(Ruth Nasrullah is a freelance journalist based in Houston. She blogs regularly for the Houston Chronicle and writes for Follow her @ruthnasrullah.)


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  • Very well written article. I am definitely going to raise my voice and exercise all my constitutional rights. I am here to stay!

  • Why the battleground?

    Reason #1 – 9/11 We will never forget !!!

    Reason #2 The Koran:

    “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)
    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”

    And on and on with other terror and horror passages from said book.

  • That is only part of 8:12. Bernardo, did you even take the time to read the complete verses in context of those that precede and follow them in the Qur’an itself, or did you just copy and paste from an anti-Islam site? My guess is the latter, given the truncated nature of them, meant to cast as negative a light is possible. 5:51 says not to take them as protectors/guardians over Muslims. The Qur’an is clear that Muslims are to be on friendly, honest terms with those of other faiths. 8:12, complete and in context, describes what will be done to those who reject faith by God. Not by man. It is part of a description of the hellfire punishments. 9:5 comes from a selection of verses in which the Muslims, after years of being forbidden to fight back, were given permission to defend themselves from their assailants, the pagan Arabs of Mecca, who had tortured and killed the Muslims, starved them, banished them from the city, and confiscated their homes and properties. CONTEXT.

  • So if Christians or Hindus or whomever resort to violence then koranic-driven violence is OK? Give us a break!!!

    And then there are other koranic “peaceful” passages Islamic terrorists use to give credence to their actions:

    “Believers, when you encounter the in-fidels on the march, do not turn your backs to them in flight. If anyone on that day turns his back to them, except it be for tactical reasons…he shall incur the wrath of God and Hell shall be his home…” (Surah 8:12-)

    “Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36-)

    “…make war on the leaders of unbelief…Make war on them: God will chastise them at your hands and humble them. He will grant you victory over them…” (Surah 9:12-)

    “Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given [Jews and Christians]…until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.” (Surah 9:29-)

    Continued below:

  • “It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith [Islam] to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters [non-Muslims] may dislike it.” (Surah 9:31-)

    “If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.” (Surah 9:37-)

    “Prophet make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home.” (Surah 9:73)

    “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them.” (Surah 9:121-)

    “Say: ‘Praise be to God who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Kingdom…” (Surah 17:111)

    “‘How shall I bear a child,’ she [Mary] answered, ‘when I am a virgin…?’ ‘Such is the will of the Lord,’ he replied. ‘That is no difficult thing for Him…God forbid that He [God[ Himself should beget a son!…Those who say: ‘The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,’ preach a monstrous falsehood…” (Surah 19:12-, 29-, 88)…

  • Continued from above:

    “Fight for the cause of God with the devotion due to Him…He has given you the name of Muslims…” (Surah 22:78-)

    “Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)…These are the heirs of Paradise…” (Surah 23:1-5-)

    “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (Surah 48:29)

    “Shall the reward of goodness be anything but good?…Dark-eyed virgins sheltered in their tents…They shall recline on green cushions and fine carpets…Blessed be the name of your Lord…” (Surah 55:52-66-)

  • Ahhh, the “out of context” excuse. Your imams and terrorists don’t follow your excuse but follow the literal word of your Koran.

    And you believe that the Koran is somehow the word of god when in reality it is the ramblings of an illiterate Arab whose hallucinations about a mythical angel have brought terror and horror to those who do not believe. And in today’s world, oil money is the engine driving the terror, horror and absurdities.

  • I’m glad to hear Muslims speaking up for their Constitutional rights.
    Only 1% of the American population is Muslim yet Americans (mostly Christian communities) fear they will try Sharia Law.

    1. The Constitution forbids Sharia as it crosses church/state separation. So it cannot happen here.

    2. Americans have nothing to fear from American Muslims. I wish more Muslims would move to the USA instead of Europe. Our non-religious Constitution offers better protection and equality for Muslims than what most other countries have.

  • Bernardo,

    There is absolutely nothing to fear from American Muslims. Have you no understanding of the Constitution?

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion…”

    Shame on you for your bad manners.

  • Bernardo, this is America. We have a guaranteed right to religious exercise and no official endorsement of any religion. An argument that ANY particular religion is evil is never going to fly when it comes to how and what the government does.

    The arguments against the cemetery are nothing more than publicly expressed bigotry. Scripture dumps just mean you know how to cut and paste. So what?

  • You DO realize that muslims have been in this country before it was even formed, right?

    remember this – the Quran is the same as the Bible – it has violent parts as well as those that advocate PEACE. Extremists follow EVERY religion known to man, INCLUDING Christianity. And all of the take passages out of context and bastardize their religion.

    Perhaps you should actually educate yourself instead of showing the world the hypocrite you are.

  • What makes you guys think that the constitution will be respected. Look at the demands for Sharia Law in Canada and other countries.

  • Sadly, I can’t say I’m surprised by this, but I am embarrassed nonetheless to see Texas represented this way. My multi-generational Texas family does not share the prejudice of these ignorant protesters. Muslims are not the problem. Violent extremists are the problem—some Muslim, some Christian, some neither. Well, extremists and people who think the Constitution gives them exclusive access to certain parts of America. The 1A applies to all of us, not just the majority.

  • Yes look at the demands for Sharia Law in Canada. They are asking for using religious law as a basis of civil arbitration. Just like Jewish Religious Courts already in existence here and well within the laws set for “Alternative Dispute Resolution” forms such as mediation and arbitration. Things governed by contract law.

    That is something far different than Saudi Arabia’s version of these things. The difference being the US and Canada are not autocratic dictatorships without any real existing rule of law. The stupidity of the anti-muslim position is conflating what is done in a democracy with a dictatorship.

    Frankly a good deal of people in this country calling themselves Christians have no respect for the Constitution and its religious freedoms. Including a few running for president. They represent a far greater threat to our nation’s freedoms than a group of people seeking a burial ground in accordance with their faith.

  • Have you read the Bible? There are equally horrific verses in the bible. Do you personally know any Muslims? I do, they are nice people and good friends. My father faught in the first Iraq war and my family has been in every war from the revolution to the present day. We even have a VFW post named for one of my Great Uncles. They fought so EVERYONE could be free to worship and believe as they chose.

  • Yes, the christian Taliban is alive and well in Texas. Who here wants religious law at the expense of the constitution? How many arguments have I heard on recent issues that included scripture? Sounds like forced religion to me! Just because it’s your religion being forced on others doesn’t make you any better than those you hate.

  • You need to study Islam more. Sutras 8 and 9 are directed at pagans (those who worship idols) not the “people of the book.”

  • Bernardo. You are afraid of all Muslims, even though they come from dozens of countries, and some are native born? Why? Those who are your neighbors have come to this country for the same reasons we and our ancestors came here: To become part of this nation we call the US. Do you judge all Catholics based on a few who commit crimes? Do you fear all Asians from Japan (they bombed Pearl Harbor, after all!), how about Americans of Chinese descent…THEIR nation is COMMUNIST! How about all Russians…they were behind the cold war, and almost launched WW III when President Kennedy was in office….I could go on and on and on, but I don’t have enough space on here.

    Bottom line, Anyone can find a reason to hate someone else. How about working to find reasons to accept your neighbors…after all, how many people might fear YOU? Fear doesn’t get us anywhere. Jesus said, Love one another. He didn’t limit that command. He means everyone!

    Pr Chris

  • You’re right. England and even Israel recognize Sharia law in divorce, child custody, inheritance, contracts and other civil matters.

  • Israel has no civil marriage laws. The Ultra-Orthodox are a powerful political force and they have blocked it since 1948. I don’t think that’s a good thing, but Israel has a parliamentary government and the US does not. A parliamentary government means that most governments are formed by coalitions and the coalition partners have the power to prevent any government from being formed. Also, Israel doesn’t have a written constitution.

    The Koran is a complicated book. It has both positive and negative messages about Jews. It seems that Mohammed thought that Jews would convert to his new religion, but they didn’t. Either way, Muslim countries have been more tolerant of Jews, for the most part, than Christian Europe. The few exceptions were fanatical tribes that were the IS of their day.

  • And now for some 21st reality as first noted many centuries ago:

    “The Two Universal Sects

    They all err—Moslems, Jews,
    Christians, and Zoroastrians:

    Humanity follows two world-wide sects:
    One, man intelligent without religion,

    The second, religious without intellect. ”

    , born AD 973 /, died AD 1058 / .

    Al-Ma’arri was a blind Arab philosopher, poet and writer.[1][2] He was a controversial rationalist of his time, attacking the dogmas of religion and rejecting the claim that Islam possessed any monopoly on truth.”

  • And more 21st century reality:

    3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, the Filipino “koranics”and the Boston Marathon bombers.

    Continued below:

  • And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni “Wannabees” of Saudi Arabia.

    Current crises:

    The global Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

  • I say that if you do not like Muslims here in the US, move to another country, why are you living here. Go to Israel, they will treat you good as you can see on you tube, how christian are treated in Israel.

  • What do you believe so I can talk in your language.
    from YOUR book.
    I am Muslim and I have been allowed to protect myself, my family and US law follows this too (sharia law), fight for my right.

  • Shall I similarly take violent Biblical verses out of context and scrub them of surrounding passages to prove my point about what an evil book it is?

  • First, it’s SURA, not SUTRA.

    Second, that only makes a difference to whom? Anyone killed would be just as dead, wouldn’t they?

    When your faith in a loving god tells you that some people deserve to die– and it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether you are Christian, Jew, muslim, or other– that should tell you that there is something very wrong.

    Wrong with either with your god, your faith, your holy book, or most likely:


  • Sure.

    When your faith in a loving god tells you that some people deserve to die– and it doesn’t matter in the slightest whether you are Christian, Jew, muslim, or other– that should tell you that there is something very wrong.

    Wrong with either with your god, your faith, your holy book, or most likely:


  • Conservative Jews in the USA have rewritten the Torah to reflect the myths therein basically making it a document of peace.
    Thomas Jefferson did an analogous rewrite of the NT. Ditto for the rewrite of the NT by the Jesus Seminarians, Professor JD Crossan in his over 20 books on the historical Jesus and related subjects and Professor Gerd Ludeman in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 694-695.

    The New Testament has only one major atrocity, that of god committing filicide assuming you believe in this Christian mumbo jumbo. Said atrocity should be enough to vitiate all of Christianity.

    Thomas Jefferson omitted the Book of Revelation along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he considered it (Revelation) as “merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.”

  • Much of the antisemitism that now permeates the Arab and Muslim world is classic Western Christian antisemitism that entered Arab countries along with colonialism.

  • Once again:

    Mohammed/Allah and antisemitism (~600 AD):

    o “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

  • They recognize Sharia law strictly on the basis of contract law. Parties consent to a set of rules to govern their dispute resolution. It’s the same concept as the arbitration clause in many contracts where you find “all disputes are to be resolved under (some unrelated) state’s laws.

    One can contract to have a dispute done in accordance with Klingon Law under the same circumstances.

    It is far less than what hysterics make it out to be.

  • Hey Bernie! Did you ever consider that many of our Muslim immigrants are people fleeing the autocratic terrors of the middle East and elsewhere?

    No matter how much you cut and paste from islamaphobe sites, it doesn’t change the fact that we as a people and under our government cannot allow themselves to demonize any faith. We cannot use one’s religion as a basis of denying rights and liberties. Not for Islam, Satanists, Cthulhu worshippers or any faith.

    Why do you hate freedom so much?

  • Cut and paste from Islamophobic sites? Not unless you define such sites that regurgitate the koran as being Islamophobic sites. All other notes are taken from CNN or from the writings of ex-Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

  • “Not unless you define such sites that regurgitate the koran as being Islamophobic sites.”

    When they selectively edit the text to demonize the believer, then yes you are using such sites. It makes no difference.

    I am not bothering to read why you declare Islam to be evil anyway. Such arguments are inherently dismissed out of hand. It is never a basis of action for our government. A government which is hardwired to have religious freedom at the expense of its own actions. Sectarian animosities is no basis for official public actions.

    Why do you hate freedom so much?

  • The problem is not my noting the horror and terror passages of the koran. The problem IS that Muslim terrorists and their imams use these passages to wreak death and destruction over the globe!!!!

  • I fail to see a rational connection between terrorists and law abiding citizens exercising their legal rights to worship in a reasonable manner as they please.

    The only connection is the nonsense argument that their religion is evil. One which must be dismissed out of hand. Neither rational nor requires being heard.

    You hate freedom. I get that.

  • It doesn’t sound like you’ve read another book full of “terror and horror passages” as you aptly describe it, called The Holy Bible. -George Nixon Shuler, Junction City KS

  • Yo, dude, haven’t you ever heard of Scott Roeder, the “Christian” assassin of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita? Religious fanaticism is a problem all right, but three times more Americans have died at the hands of right-wing Christians than any Muslims since 9-11.

    And what about the story that an “All-Powerful God” had to send his son to earth disgusied as a man by raping a 15-year-old virgin and ultimately causing the Son of God to die in a bloody S&M crucifixion? -george Nixon Shuler, Junction City KS