The Sufi community in the little town of Sidney Center, NY, buried one of their own on the community's farm. The Board of Supervisors investigated to make sure the burial was legal. It was. Nonetheless, one Supervisor, an anti-government Republican named Robert McCarthy, still objected, calling for the dead to be disinterred because "you can't just bury Grandma in the backyard under the picnic table."
That is the ugly part. This is the good part.
The town rallied 'round the Sufis. The next Board of Supervisors meetings was packed - a rare occurrence - calling shame on McCarthy. A local lawyer, who is Jewish, offered to represent the Sufis pro bono. A Republican committee woman resigned in disgust, and instead went to the Sufi community center to meet her turbaned neighbors for the first time. Hans Hass, spokesman for the Sufis, became a national figure for a moment as the story spread. But Hass was already a well-respected local figure, integrated into the town. Hass is a building contractor, volunteer fireman, and captain of the ambulance squad (!).
As if on cue to illustrate the points I had been writing about from American Grace, Sidney Center shows how religious difference binds us together, even in the face of the uncivil minority.