Moral Outrage
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Osama bin Laden burial at sea unacceptable to Muslims

Excerpt of a CNN Opinion by Abdal Hakim Murad, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University, England. In 2010 he was voted Britain’s most influential Muslim thinker by Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.

The burial at sea of Osama bin Ladin was a sad miscalculation. It is not clear where the Pentagon finds its information on Islamic rituals. It cannot ignore, however, the fact that Muslim leaders have found the procedure by which the cadaver was tipped into the sea, following an unspecified Muslim ceremony, entirely unacceptable.

The leading scholarly institution in the Muslim world is Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. And the Muslim world has heard, with disquiet, Al-Azhar’s judgement on the “sea burial.” Although Bin Laden had routinely attacked Al-Azhar’s scholars as apostates and collaborators with the Egyptian regime, and they had no time for his Wahhabi beliefs, the Azharites were unanimous. The head of Al-Azhar, Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayyib, proclaimed the American action to be a violation of Islamic procedures.

“This contradicts all humanitarian principles,” he declared. “In Islamic law, it is forbidden to mistreat a human body, whatever its religion or sect may have been. To honor a body, one must bury it.”

The venerated former Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Nasr Farid Wasil, spoke even more forcibly. The procedures apparently followed by the Americans, including the shrouding of the body were, he said, incorrect and “illogical.”

He was followed by Taha Abu Kuraysha, a leading expert in Islamic law, who said the American procedure amounted to a “mutilation” of a dead body, “entirely forbidden by Islam.”

By failing to dispose of the body in a way acceptable to Muslims, as defined by their leaders, America has helped to create a further legend about its contempt for Islam. Moreover, it has shown that, 10 years after 9/11, it has still not managed to understand even the most basic of Muslim practices.


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