Criticism about bin Ladenâ€™s sea burial comes for various reasons: failure to comply with Islamic law, a lack of closure, and the proliferation of conspiracy theories.
By Ariel Zirulnick
File: the USS Carl Vinson, from which Osama Bin Laden is reported to have been buried at sea.
A growing number of disparate parties, from Islamic clerics to the families of 9/11 victims, are criticizing the US decision to bury Osama bin Laden at sea.
The Obama administration said that the US chose to bury bin Laden at sea to prevent his burial site from becoming a shrine and because an unnamed country that the US asked to take his body refused. Because Islamic law mandates burial within 24 hours of death, there was no time for the US to ask other countries, counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said, according to the New York Times.
At a press conference Monday, Mr. Brennan assured reporters that his burial had been conducted â€œin accordance with the Islamic requirements.â€
But in Indonesia, the worldâ€™s most populous Muslim country, the countryâ€™s highest Islamic body condemned the burial at sea, Agence France-Presse reports.
â€œA Muslim, whatever his profession, even a criminal, their rites must be respected. There must be a prayer and the body should be wrapped in white cloth before being buried in the earth, not at sea,â€ [Indonesia Ulema Council] chief Amidhan said. â€œMany others have condemned it, especially as it was done with extreme hatred against him.â€
Ahmad al-Tayeb, the top cleric of Egyptâ€™s prominent Al Azhar University, also slammed the decision, saying in a statement that it â€œruns contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values, and humanitarian customs,â€ according to Iranâ€™s PressTV. Any of the dead deserve full respect, he said, and a corpse will only be respected if it is buried in the ground.
The US defended its procedures, saying that bin Ladenâ€™s body was washed and wrapped in a white cloth and â€œeasedâ€ it into the sea.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina criticized the burial on entirely different grounds. To him, rushing to bury bin Laden in order to be in accordance with Islamic law, â€œmay have been sensitivity taken too far,â€ Fox News reported.
â€œIt would be in our national interests to make a case, [a] documented case, that this was Osama bin Laden. He is dead. I think that would be a smart thing to do, and have it rolled out in a sensitive way, but prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, and some people still wonâ€™t believe it.â€ â€¦ â€œThis idea of disposing the body within 24 hours because of tradition bothers me a bit because we will be under attack as to whether or not it really was him,â€ Graham said. â€œAnd Iâ€™m not so sure that was a wise move. Iâ€™d like to hear more about that.â€
There are concerns that a burial at sea will spur on conspiracy theories that bin Laden isnâ€™t actually dead, and thatâ€™s why the US has no body to show the public. Some of those theories have already begun to surface, particularly in the Arab world. Meanwhile, DNA testing has reportedly provided â€œ99.9 percent certaintyâ€ that the person US forces killed was bin Laden, says the government. The US is still debating whether to release the photographs it took of bin Laden before his burial.
Rosaleen Tallon, the sister of a New York firefighter who died in the 9/11 attacks, said that the burial at sea â€œdenied people like her the guarantee of seeing a body and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that Bin Laden was dead,â€ the Los Angeles Times reports.
But despite vocal criticism, there are likely many people who, while curious about the decision to bury bin Laden at sea, are not critical of it â€“ including in the US Muslim community.
Khalid Latif, New York University chaplain and executive director of the universityâ€™s Islamic Center, said in a column for CNN that sharia law also takes into consideration what is best for society â€“ and when held up to that standard, bin Ladenâ€™s burial at sea does follow Islamic law.
Humanity on a whole has a right that needs to be considered in regard to bin Ladenâ€™s burial. Who would want this man buried next to their loved one? Is it appropriate, especially after he has caused such pain to so many, to put anyone in a situation where they might have to be buried near or next to him?
It also protects his body, Mr. Latif wrote. If bin Laden was buried on land and the location of his body was discovered, there would be the risk not only of the burial site offering an â€œopportunity for glorification of bin Ladenâ€ but also of it being targeted by people still angry over his actions in life.