It took the U.S. nearly a decade to track down and kill the man responsible for the murder of thousands of Americans in the 9/11 attacks. It took less than 24 hours to dispose of his body.
As the U.S. celebrated the recent news of Osama bin Laden’s death, others have halted their celebrations, awaiting further explanation regarding the disposal of the body.
Questions have been raised about the U.S.’ decision to bury bin Laden’s body at sea. Amid uncertainty, U.S. officials claim their actions were in accordance with bin Laden’s Islamic religion, whose laws state that a body must be buried within 24 hours after death.
“The burial of bin Laden’s remains was done in strict conformance with Islamist precepts and practices,” John Brennan, one of President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism advisers, told The Associated Press.
Islamic burial traditions call for several practices after one’s death, said Alam Payind, director of the Middle East Studies Center at Ohio State. The corpse must be washed by a same-sex cleric and wrapped in a simple cloth, called a kafan, to respect the dignity and privacy of the deceased. After the corpse has been prepared, prayers are offered for the forgiveness of the dead and the body is buried.
Sea burials are permissible in extreme circumstances, Payind said.
Many Muslim authorities are outraged with the burial ceremony and believe bin Laden’s burial was in serious violation of Islamic tradition and lacked respect.
Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque told the AP that bin Laden’s burial at sea “runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs.”
He said every effort must be made for in-ground burial, and he doesn’t believe the U.S. made these efforts.
Still, the Pentagon stands by its claim that bin Laden’s burial was handled according to the tradition of Islamic burial procedures before it was lowered into the northern Arabian Sea.
Payind believes the United States acted appropriately given the circumstance.
“This was an abnormal situation,” Payind said. “The doctrine of necessity makes the impermissible, permissible in this case. … I think the United States did the right thing.”
Some OSU students echoed Payind’s sentiments.
“I think they (the U.S.) did what they had to do,” said Bashir Ahmed Gardaad, a second-year in early childhood development. “It’s not necessarily by the book, but they still did the right thing by trying to respect his Islamic traditions.”
Gardaad said the burial was not offensive to him as a Muslim.
“It doesn’t offend me. Like I said, they did what they had to do,” Gardaad said.
Military expert Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney told Fox News the U.S. wanted to avoid at all costs bin Laden’s gravesite from becoming a shrine for his followers. They also did not feel that bin Laden’s remains would have been respected by a country on which he poured out the majority of his extreme hatred.
The bin Laden ceremony not only sparked controversy because of Islamic tradition. For several students, it also met with skepticism of the validity of bin Laden’s death.
“I think the timing of this was pretty good for Obama,” said Nick Oberhouse, a second-year in business. “It’s pretty questionable that after 10 years of searching for this guy we give him up immediately. Seems fishy.”
Brandon Kimbro, a fourth-year in human nutrition and community health, agreed.
“They show us ‘special reports’ on the news with pictures of the compound, bloody floors, and all that, but no bin Laden,” Kimbro said.
U.S. officials have attempted to alleviate the skepticism surrounding bin Laden’s death.
“We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden.” Brennan said in a press conference on Monday.
DNA testing was performed on the body shortly after death, Brennan said, and the results returned positive, matching the identity of bin Laden to within 99 percent.
Kimbro said the news about the burial surprised him.
“I didn’t think that was our decision to make,” he said. “It seems like a hurried decision.”
Some OSU students were irked that bin Laden’s religious beliefs and burial rites were respected.
“I don’t think they should have (respected his burial rites) just because of what he’s done … all that he’s put people through,” said Alyssa Ancipink, a third-year in medical dietetics.
But Payind said Islamic tradition calls for all bodies to be respected after death.
“Even if it is your enemy,” he said, “you don’t disrespect the body.”