We’ve had quite the active few days in religious news, eh? And we’ll have many things to look at in media coverage from the days to come. In President Barack Obama’s address to the nation about the killing of Osama bin Laden, he discussed bin Laden’s religion and the effect of his actions on other Muslims. There’s a lot to discuss there but not much to note with media coverage yet. Here’s the portion of the speech in question:
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
We also got the news that the Obama administration is working on what to do with the body of the deceased Islamist terrorist. Here’s ABC News Jonathan Karl:
A senior administration official tells my colleague Jake Tapper this about the body: “We are ensuring it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. It’s something we take seriously and therefore it’s being handled in an appropriate manner.?”
Under Islamic tradition, ABC’s Zunaira Zaki reports, the body would be washed by Muslim men and buried as soon as possible, usually by the next prayer (Muslims pray five times a day), although there may be delays under certain circumstances (for autopsies, for example). The body is usually buried in a simple white sheet — whether buried in the ground, or at sea.
Not bad for a seven sentence blog post, but this raises as many questions as it answers. I hope that reporters are brushing up on what Islam teaches about body handling as well as tension points with U.S. concerns other than autopsies.
Over at Faith & Reason at USA Today, Cathy Lynn Grossman discusses some of these religious themes and ethical issues. Incidentally, our own Sarah Pulliam Bailey will be blogging over there this week, too.
And since I’ve mentioned her, Sarah had a good roundup at Christianity Today of early Twitter reaction to the question: “How Should Christians Respond to Osama bin Laden’s Death?” I’ll be honest and admit that I felt happiness at the news delivered by President Obama. Not that I rejoice over the death of any man, particularly one who gave no indication of renouncing his ways while alive, but there is something good about learning that someone won’t be able to kill any more innocent people. I know that my church has much to say on this topic and think it would make an excellent topic for a religion reporter out there.
So please let us know if you see any particularly good or bad treatment of religion angles. And let us know if you have ideas for good religion news stories to pursue.