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Does the Body of a ‘Terrorist’ Not Deserve Dignity?

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Amnah Khalid, BeyondHeadlines

Today, the face of terror was removed from the minds of Americans by the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals. As announced in a speech by President Obama, justice has been done not because Americans valued wealth or power but the values that make them. The values of  liberty and justice for all. The sense of retribution and the gulps of emotion at ground zero following the remembrance of terror strike of 9/11 had been avenged. The service and lives of those who died fighting the war on terror was not forgotten, and all peace loving people should welcome such a news.

The US war was against Al-Qa’ida and not Islam. Muslims had also become Osama’s victims. The celebrations were for a victory of justice and peace. The message was loud and clear, the days of terrorism were coming to an end with most people took a deep breath of relieve rather than peace. Nonetheless what remains is universal recognition of these values by President Obama for everyone affected.

One of the first questions that is set to become controversial among Muslims is the hurried manner in disposal of Osama’s body. Officials of the US administration claim some resistance was put up by the leader who was shot in the head, he apparently did not die and was shot again. From the pictures released, it is difficult to understand how the mattress is blood spot free yet the floor under the bed and carpet are heavily stained. The body was identified by the Navy Seals, members of his family living in the compound and a DNA test was apparently conducted through a sample collected from the brain of his dead sister. It is difficult to see how the body could be tested and flown 400 miles to sea in a couple of hours.

By afternoon, Pakistan TV channels were showing the bloody face of a body claiming it to be Bin Laden’s. These were later refuted to be constructed, and US officials said that the images were too bloody to be displayed. By one in the afternoon, the officials said: “We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. This is something that we take very seriously and therefore, this is being handled in an appropriate manner.” What these rituals were is unknown. Unconvincing, the body was washed according to Islamic rituals aboard an aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, taken in a boat and dropped in the north Arabian sea. What the administration meant by Islamic rituals was a burial in 24 hours. It is indeed true that a body is best buried early but in mother earth and not sea many need more evidence.

Several Islamic scholars have come forward with their opinion on the matter. Bin Laden’s burial at sea “runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs,” said Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque, highest seat of Islamic learning, said.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical cleric in Lebanon, said: “The Americans want to humiliate Muslims through this burial, and I don’t think this is in the interest of the US administration.” Mohammed al-Qubaisi, Dubai’s grand mufti, said: “They can say they buried him at sea, but they cannot say they did it according to Islam.” He further said: “If the family does not want him, it was not an issue. The burial in Islam is really very simple. You dig up a grave anywhere, even on a remote island, say prayers and that’s it. Sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances, and this situation was not one of them.”

“What was done by the Americans is forbidden by Islam and might provoke some Muslims,” said another Islamic scholar from Iraq, Abdul-Sattar al-Janabi, who preaches at Baghdad’s famous Abu Hanifa mosque. “It is not acceptable, and it is almost a crime to throw the body of a Muslim into the sea. The body of Bin Laden should have been handed over to his family to look for a country or land to bury him,’ he said.

The official defense was to prevent a shrine built to honor him like the one built for Saddam Hussain for his followers. Another claim is the refusal of Saudi authorities to take his body in spite of his Saudi nationality. Osama was killed many times before most notably in December 2001 too, but he has remained in the minds of the people for whatever be the reason. Was it too much to bury him in an unknown grave for a clean and clear end? Does the body of a ‘terrorist’ not require dignity and identification? Are such ‘terrorists’ not even worth a trial in the International Court of Justice like Slobodon Milosovich of Bosnian ethnic cleansing fame? Perhaps, the US record has not been clean with the Guntanomo Bay record.

Does anyone at this stage bother about a country’s sovereignty been violated, Pakistan’s? Afghanistan was invaded by the US forces without a formal declaration till date. Such new tactical wars violate the country’s sovereignty, and all international norms need a check on US violations. Pakistan was a sitting duck in the game played on its soil. On the contrary, we saw how thousands of civilians were killed by the government forces without an immediate humanitarian intervention in Libya.The values of liberty , justice and equality belong to all and not the exclusive domain of a single country.

(Amnah can be contacted at amnah@beyondheadlines.in)

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