January 18, 2005

Coptic Victims' Funeral Erupts in Anger

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JERSEY CITY, Jan. 17 - The funeral for an Egyptian immigrant family found slain in their home here erupted into a scene of chaos and roiling emotion on Monday, with some mourners jumping on top of cars, shoving each other and threatening to beat a Muslim cleric who was escorted to safety by the police.

The source of the disruption at the Coptic Christian service appeared to be the presence of Muslims, who said they had come to pay their respects.

The understanding shown by the Sheik and Bishop David is noteworthy:

Around the same time, Sheik Saleh said he heard threats of a beating: "Bring a stick to his head," he said he recalled people yelling. "Beat him, take him away."

"I don't blame any one of them," he added. "Emotionally they are not happy right now."

After the bodies were entombed in crypts at Rosedale Cemetery and Crematory in Linden, the funeral party returned to Bergen Avenue to share a meal of chicken and mashed potatoes. Bishop David, when asked what he thought of one of the men who yelled at him after the funeral, said, "People are angry. He's still our child."

If the crime was motivated by religious hatred, this kind of hostility may be just what the killers intended to evoke, just as Al-Zarqawi wants to provoke Sunni-Shi'i conflict in Iraq.

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