Democrat backs Muslims’ right to cemetery

Sidney grave site

The former Democratic opponent of the town supervisor who wants a Muslim group to dig up two bodies they buried on private property says she thinks the reaction might have been different if the group wasn’t Islamic.

“I do wonder what the reaction would have been if a different group of people had owned the property,” Dawn Rivers Baker, Chair of the Town of Sidney Democratic Committee, told TPMMuckraker.

Baker ran against Bob McCarthy, the now-town supervisor for the village of Sidney, NY. He said in an interview earlier this week that the controversy over the town’s decision to consult a lawyer on whether they could have the Muslim Osmanli Naksibendi Hakkani Sufi Order dig up the graves located in town was ginned by the the “liberal media.”

“It’s kind of weird for me to be sitting here espousing property rights when I’m the Democrat and he’s the Republican, but it’s private property,” Baker said. “And it’s not even like these little private cemeteries are even unusual in rural areas because they’re not, because it’s not illegal, they’re not bothering anybody, and I don’t know why the town board has to bother them.”

The Muslim group is well liked and people don’t have a problem with the Muslim group, Baker said.

“There’s not a whole lot in the way of racial diversity here in Sidney, and there are certainly some people who are unpleasant about that, about race. It’s not a perfect place,” Baker said. “But at the same time, I know that I haven’t had any crosses burned on my lawn since I moved up here.”

Baker said that there were some initial plans to stage a protest at the next town board meeting, and Baker said she has heard the board is talking about moving the date or postponing the meeting because they want to avoid a media circus.

She said there are a lot of people concerned that the town is getting a bad rap because of the controversy. Stephen Colbert even joked this week about Sidney residents being scared of “Muslim vampires” in “sleeper-in-coffin” cells.

“They would very much like to set the record straight and let the world know, ‘Well the town supervisor might be a jerk, but the rest of us aren’t’,” Baker said.

TPM, 1 October 2010