Pod people: No shrines for shrine haters

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! On Crossroads this week, we discussed media coverage of the burial of Osama bin Laden as well as coverage of the Royal Wedding. During the podcast, I noted that there had been much excellent journalism this week and that some errors are bound to creep in. What’s important, I think, is to get the story right as quickly as possible.

One thing I thought would be interesting would be coverage of what American Muslims thought of the burial rite. Much of the coverage has been from Muslim clerics in the Middle East. They decry the way the United States buried the body at sea but what do American Muslims say? Is there a difference and why?

The New York Daily News attempted a look with the piece “Even a monster such as Osama Bin Laden deserved a better burial, say city Muslims”:

New York Muslims and community leaders are still shocked that the U.S. dumped Osama Bin Laden’s body into the ocean.

No matter how evil – and even though Bin Laden didn’t afford his victims a decent burial – many Muslims interviewed by the Daily News said sending his remains to a watery grave was wrong.

“All Muslims as good believers are against terrorists but the way they got rid of his body … is not the way,” said Hamed Nabawy, owner of The Fertile Crescent grocery in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn’s Arab hub along Atlantic Ave. “We do not burn it. We do not throw it in the water. We bury it in the ground,” said Nabawy, 52.

The story doesn’t go too deep into some of the other issues we discussed earlier in the week, such as whether Muslims are unified in their belief that Bin Laden deserved a Muslim burial or how that is determined.

Reuters did dig a bit deeper for the piece “Bin Laden sea burial not in line with Islam, clerics say.” It was fascinating to learn the perceptions of the sea burial among non-American Muslim clerics. So, for example, one Saudi cleric and judge says the U.S. made a mistake with the burial. It was un-Islamic and showed Americans fear him even after death, he said. Yemen critics said that the body should have gone to his family. I do wish we’d see a story about who might have taken the body for a proper burial and whether Washington even considered it. This story goes into who wouldn’t take the body:

In reality, it was unlikely that Saudi Arabia would have allowed a burial on its soil, analysts say. His family, which became rich from the Saudi construction boom, has disowned him, and he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994. …

Analysts said Washington may have also wanted to avoid any chance of having a known burial spot where sympathisers could visit and perhaps draw inspiration for future attacks.

“For them it is justified politically and psychologically. Because they dont want him to have a shrine,” said Mustafa Alani, security analyst at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

Ah, the old shrine issue, again. One commenter on a previous post wondered if the word shrine weren’t being used religiously so much as politically. Followers of Bin Laden generally oppose shrines. Violently. They think that visiting the graves and the shrines of prophets, imams and saints is un-Islamic. So what, precisely, is the concern over a known burial spot? Perhaps we’ll find out in the next round of stories.

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  • Martha

    “Followers of Bin Laden generally oppose shrines. Violently. They think that visiting the graves and the shrines of prophets, imams and saints is un-Islamic. So what, precisely, is the concern over a known burial spot?”

    Hmm – is the Lincoln Memorial a shrine? Discuss.

    (And no, before anyone can jump down my throat on this, I am not equating Abraham Lincoln with Osama bin Laden. Just that a ‘shrine’ need not be strictly within the meaning of a defined religion, yet still have overtones of more than just ‘historical curiosity’).

  • sallyr

    Fox has a story about how the compound in which Bin Laden was killed is already becoming a shrine to him. They don’t seem to mean it in a religious sense, but they quote one man as saying,
    “I’ve come here today to see a piece of our history,” said Ahmed, 24, who brought his 11-month-old daughter with him. “Osama was a good Muslim who fought for Islam. He was a hero to us. I expect in time to see all sorts of tourists here, even Japanese and Americans.”

    Local government people are saying they expect to build hotels to handle the influx of expected visitors to the site. Next, I predict, will come the t-shirt and souvenir vendors, and then people handing out pamphlets about his life. This is human nature, and people are going to do it regardless of whether there’s an Islamic prohibition on “shrines.” The US had every reason to believe the same thing would happen with his grave.

    Read more: http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/wildcard_5/bin_laden/bin-laden-shrine-fears-as-tourists-flock-to-death-compound-050511#ixzz1LUR7msCt

  • sallyr

    And, just about on cue, radical islamists rename the area where Osama’s body was dumped “Martyr’s sea”.

    I’ll say it again – these guys can find warrant in their religion to do anything they want to do, by finding a cleric who will read all the authorities and say it’s OK. If they think a “shrine” is useful for what they want to do, they will get the approval to do it.

    Just in February a Palestinian cleric issued a fatwa saying that all Christians and Jews (including “non-combatants”) are aggressive enemies and are not “innocent” and so they can be lawfully killed. (Also said that concern about killing Muslims in the same kinds of raids cannot be a reason for failing to launch attacks). You can read about it here:


  • sallyr

    oops – here’s a link to the story about the Arabian sea becoming a site of “pilgrimage” to the sea burial site:


  • bob

    Just to give a little sanity about the issue of the *relics* of the newest martyr, consider the pictures of Nuremberg convicts after they were hung. Easy to find in a couple of clicks. It is also recorded that some of them (not all) responded to religious overtures as their executions approached. I haven’t read of any great upheaval in Germany as a result of those pictures being published, nor after the pictures of the beat up cadaver of Mussolini (I presume a properly baptized Roman Catholic?) hung by the feet in Milan. No outrage by Italian Catholic faithful? Is there some innate difference between how Christians respond to the killing of a mass murderer and how Muslims do? A religious story that perhaps dare not come to light.
    The fact that Muslims anywhere think anyone cares what they think of how Osama’s body was treated goes a very long way to show how amazingly clueless they are about the rest of the world. They can’t see that after thousands of our soldiers dead and maimed and even more Muslims dead as result of Taliban & Al Quaida that issue is completely insignificant? That is a religious story. I don’t have the stomach to read it, though.

  • James

    There are plenty of anti-Americans who are not Salafist Muslims but who may nevertheless be fond of Osama bin Laden. While Salafist Muslims may reject anything that looks like pilgrimage to any place other than Mecca, it’s pretty reasonable to think that there would be non-Salafist (or bad Salafist) anti-Americans who would want to visit the burial site.