The White House went out of its way to make certain that Osama bin Laden received full traditional Muslim burial rites. Obama officials claimed they did so to honor the Islamic religion, but they were also honoring bin Laden. Such acts are unacceptable on behalf of America’s mortal enemy; no one suggested Adolf Hitler’s remains receive a Viking funeral.
The Obama administration goes to great lengths to stay on the right side of Shariah, but hastily dumping bin Laden’s body into the sea was a critical mistake in an otherwise successful operation. The conspiracy theories are already spinning about why the corpse had to be gotten rid of so quickly. The White House explained the sea burial as a way to avoid having bin Laden’s final resting place become a terrorist shrine, but he wouldn’t have to be buried in a known, public location. The abrupt timing of the terror leader’s disposal is related to the Obama administration’s desire to make certain all U.S. actions in the war on terrorism pass Muslim muster, in this case the requirement that a body be buried within a day of death.
On Monday, White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan, in the usual reverential tone he employs when discussing matters Muslim, said, “The disposal of - the burial of bin Laden’s remains was done in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices.” He was referring specifically to the timing of the burial, the preparation of the body and recitation of prayers. While the White House may have gotten the details right, they missed the big picture. Burial at sea is not an Islamic practice and may only be used when there is absolutely no other alternative, regardless of the 24-hour rule.
Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Egypt’s highest religious authority and one of the most respected clerics of Sunni Islam, said throwing bin Laden in the ocean was “contrary to all religious values and norms of humanity” and “is not permissible in Islamic law.” The notion of a person’s remains being dropped into the ocean to be consumed by sea creatures is repugnant to Muslims.
Rushing a body to a sea burial to meet the 24-hour deadline when perfectly good land-based alternatives were available - such as burial in an unmarked grave in a remote location - doesn’t pass the smell test in the region. Speculation is already rampant regarding the haste with which the body was disposed, and some Islamic radicals claim the United States intentionally chose sea burial as a sign of disrespect. This was a major backfire in the battle of ideas, but for those who wanted bin Laden’s corpse desecrated, consider this mission accomplished.
It also does not help that the administration can’t get its story straight. The first account was that bin Laden was armed and killed in a firefight using a woman as a human shield. In the revised account bin Laden was unarmed and shieldless, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney explained on Tuesday that “resistance does not require a firearm.” This is another way of saying bin Laden was killed in cold blood, a fact which will not trouble many Americans, but it raises the question of whether the latest official account of the killing will have to be revised too.
The White House debated for days whether or not to release photos, videos and other information regarding the Abbottabad raid, and in so doing gave birth to a thousand misunderstandings. Recent history has shown that the best move is to get as much out as quickly as possible. The “9/11 Truth” movement was fed by the Bush administration’s extreme caution in releasing information regarding the Sept. 11 attacks. The world still waits to see photos from cameras the FBI confiscated at the Pentagon that morning, for example. The government should release as many photos, videos and transcripts as possible without compromising sources and methods before the biggest story of the decade spawns even more wild tales and speculation.
Mr. Obama’s well-known solicitude to Islam notwithstanding, the aftermath of bin Laden’s death does not appear to be going over well. Everything leading up the takedown was extremely professional. Everything since is amateur hour.