We rarely talk about the dead outside of genocide or mass graves when we discuss human rights. But even in normal, everyday life in a place like New York City, human rights encompass death and what we do with our loved ones they die.
Funeral rights vary from culture to culture, religion to religion, but they are an important issue for many people. Death is a natural, and inevitable, part of life. Caring for the dead has special meaning and it can be a difficult process for grieving loved ones to manage.
When cultures and religions have differing views on how to treat the dead it can cause unexpected problems. For Muslims in America, especially the 600,000 to 1 million living in New York City, that clash can be very difficult.
Muslim funerals are simple affairs, held for the dead, where extravagance is frowned upon. Bodies are washed, wrapped, and buried in simple coffins.
In the United States, however, funerals often feature elaborate caskets, complex ceremonies, and expensive burial plots. Estimates for funeral costs in New York City can run anywhere from $6,000 to $50,000, which prompts many local Muslims to claim that they can’t afford to die in this city.
Many who migrated to the United States are returned to their country of origin for burial. This is a simple process when the final resting place is in a country like Egypt where the U.S. has good relations with the government. It becomes complex when the deceased chooses to be interred in Iran, which has a less friendly relationship with the U.S.
The obvious answer for many Muslims is to establish a cemetery in New York City for Muslims, where they can keep down the price of burial plots and not have to bury their loved ones in New Jersey, or spend large sums on plots in other local cemeteries, but that is easier said than done.
For now, New York’s Muslims help each other out, and try to make the best of an expensive situation when it comes time to mourn a loved one.