Monday, May 2, 2011
Was burying bin Laden at sea a mistake?
Amid the justified celebrations over the killing of Osama bin Laden, an awkward question is starting to rear its head: Did U.S. policymakers err in burying the al Qaeda leader at sea?
Already, the decision has provoked criticism from some Islamic scholars, who say a maritime burial isn't in keeping with Muslim law. And there are signs that the move could help fuel skepticism, especially among President Obama's critics, about whether bin Laden was really killed at all.
The Pentagon has said the body was treated in accordance with traditional Islamic procedures--including washing the corpse--before it was placed in the waters of the northern Arabian Sea.
U.S. officials have said they wanted to avoid the al Qaeda leader's grave site becoming a shrine for his followers. They've also said it would have been difficult to find a foreign country willing to accept bin Laden's remains, especially in so short a time: Islamic tradition and practice call for the body of the deceased to be buried within 24 hours of death.
But several Muslim authorities said today that the sea burial in fact violated Muslim tradition--and warned that it could help trigger calls for revenge from militant Muslims.
The sea burial "runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs," Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand Imam of Cairo's al-Azhar mosque, told the AP.
And Mohammed al-Qubaisi, Dubai's grand mufti, echoed that view. "If the family does not want him, it's really simple in Islam: You dig up a grave anywhere, even on a remote island, you say the prayers and that's it."
He added: "Sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances," he added. "This is not one of them."
And Abdul-Sattar al-Janabi, who preaches at Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque declared: "It is not acceptable, and it is almost a crime to throw the body of a Muslim man into the sea," adding that the action "might provoke some Muslims."
But the religious verdict may not be quite that open and shut. Imam Shamsi Ali, of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York, told The Lookout that in emergency circumstances, any Islamic law can be overlooked. "For example, you're not allowed to eat pork," he said, but added that if you were starving to death, it would be considered acceptable. Ali said that because the United States appears to have been unable to find a country to take bin Laden's body within 24 hours, this might have qualified as such an emergency.
Islamic practices aside, the decision is already triggering conspiracy theories that cast doubt on whether bin Laden is truly dead--even though DNA testing is said to have confirmed with virtual certainty that the al Qaeda leader was indeed killed. An assertion by Pakistan's Taliban that bin Laden is still living was picked up on several users of the conservative website FreeRepublic.com. In addition, one writer on the Andrew Breitbart website Big Peace called for bin Laden's body to be"digitally scanned" so that Americans could verify his death for themselves. On Twitter, Emily Miller, an editor at the conservative Washington Times, demanded a photo of the body as "proof."
Skepticism could only increase in some quarters if the Obama administration declines to release photos of bin Laden's body. No decision has yet been made on that question, according to White House counter-terror adviser John Brennan, who said this afternoon that doing so could jeopardize future operations.
(In an image taken from a video broadcast, Dec. 24, 1998, Osama bin Laden spoke during an interview at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.: ABC News/AP)
Posted by MSMZ at 9:16 PM