Osama bin Laden killed

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.

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  • http://theotechno.blogspot.com/ Lee

    There’s a church within about 200 ft. of the compound. That seems like an interesting fact.

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David Rupert

    I’m not sure how we should react as Christians — I blogged about it at Red Letter Believers today.

    As far as the religious coverage. Obama was very clear saying that this was not a war on Islam –and it wasn’t. but tell that to millions of adherents.

  • Julia

    The body is usually buried in a simple white sheet — whether buried in the ground, or at sea.

    I wonder if the ABC reporter knew something that he was not yet free to report. It has now been reported that Bin Laden was in fact buried at sea.

  • Julia

    Turns out it’s a Catholic church – St Peter Canisius.
    I couldn’t find any reports that it had ever been attacked like other Christian churches.


  • Joey

    This article gives an explanation as to why Osama bin Laden’s body was burried at sea: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/140242/20110502/osama-bin-laden-body.htm

    I’d still like to see Get Religion’s take on this.

  • Bill

    The article Joey (#5) linked to shows that grownups are thinking about the ramifications. The success of the mission is a good thing, but is politically explosive. It’s unlikely bin Laden could have been living so near Islamabad without some complicity by the Pakistani army. It is also unlikely US aircraft could have penetrated so deeply into Pakistani airspace without some cooperation from the Pakistani military. This will presage a public deterioration between the US and Pakistan designed to distance the latter from the death of a man considered a hero in much of the Muslim world, where there will be loud shouts of anger and and quiet sighs of relief.

    Respecting Muslim religious practices and a burial at sea was not just a decent act, but a wise political move.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Well, there’s a fair number of opinion pieces about how Christians should react (e.g. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/05/02/anthropos-enemy-and-bin-laden/ and http://randalrauser.com/2011/05/osama-is-dead-and-there-shall-be-dancing-in-the-streets/ ) but I’m not sure how a news article would approach that.

  • Dave G.

    How should Christians react? How should Jews react? How should atheists react? How should Muslims react? What would be insteresting is plotting how they may be the same, they may be different, and why.

  • J

    Vatican on Bin Laden:

    “Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace,” the statement read.


    This is a Vatican statement that this “Zen Taoist” can appreciate. From Tao Te Ching 33:

    (A decent man does not) rejoice in victory.
    How could he rejoice in victory
    and delight in the slaughter of men?

    He enters a battle gravely,
    with sorrow and with great compassion,
    as if he were attending a funeral.

    Lest anyone be confused, I do think that the death of bin Laden is most likely for the best. However, there is a concern that his death will perpetuate cycles of violence in yet another way. Concern for all who continue to suffer, and not celebration of one death, is in order.

  • J


    “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall,
    and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”
    —Proverbs 24:17

    “For those of us who embrace a version of the just war theory, honed carefully over the centuries of Christian tradition, our response is disciplined by belief that war itself is tragic and that all killing in war, even in self-defense, must be treated with sobriety and even mournfulness. War and all of its killing reflects the brokenness of our world. That is the proper spirit with which to greet this news.”

  • Home on the Range

    That is the proper spirit with which to greet this news.”

    @ J…really hard to do…my town lost an entire family in that first plane to hit the towers. No, I believe that we can be glad at the death of great evil. It comforts me to know that bin laden’s last sight was the face of an American soldier.

  • J

    @Home on the Range-

    It is hard, and none of us get all the way there. My first reaction was “yes!” It’s even harder the closer you are to the pain. I’ve not walked in your shoes, and I will not judge you. I am glad that you have received some comfort. Consider, however, whether this incident serves to diminish future pain and suffering. I truly do not know whether it will or won’t. People who have lost loved ones still miss them; people physically injured still hurt. Perhaps some people inclined to commit terroristic acts will take the lesson that no one should kill innocent people; I fear, however, that some will point to this as justification for further retribution. Violence has a way of perpetuating still more violence.

    This is getting off of journalism…original intent was to illustrate some of the responses being posted to Dave G’s question, and especially the Vatican response as many of the posters and writers are interested in that.