Pod people: No shrines for shrine haters

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! On Crossroads this week, we discussed media coverage of the burial of Osama bin Laden as well as coverage of the Royal Wedding. During the podcast, I noted that there had been much excellent journalism this week and that some errors are bound to creep in. What's important, I think, is to get the story right as quickly as possible. One thing I thought would be interesting would be coverage of what American Muslims thought of the burial rite. Much of the coverage has been from Muslim clerics in the Middle East. They decry the way the United States buried the body at sea but what do American Muslims say? Is there a difference and why?

The New York Daily News attempted a look with the piece "Even a monster such as Osama Bin Laden deserved a better burial, say city Muslims":

New York Muslims and community leaders are still shocked that the U.S. dumped Osama Bin Laden's body into the ocean.

No matter how evil - and even though Bin Laden didn't afford his victims a decent burial - many Muslims interviewed by the Daily News said sending his remains to a watery grave was wrong.

"All Muslims as good believers are against terrorists but the way they got rid of his body ... is not the way," said Hamed Nabawy, owner of The Fertile Crescent grocery in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn's Arab hub along Atlantic Ave. "We do not burn it. We do not throw it in the water. We bury it in the ground," said Nabawy, 52.

The story doesn't go too deep into some of the other issues we discussed earlier in the week, such as whether Muslims are unified in their belief that Bin Laden deserved a Muslim burial or how that is determined.

Reuters did dig a bit deeper for the piece "Bin Laden sea burial not in line with Islam, clerics say." It was fascinating to learn the perceptions of the sea burial among non-American Muslim clerics. So, for example, one Saudi cleric and judge says the U.S. made a mistake with the burial. It was un-Islamic and showed Americans fear him even after death, he said. Yemen critics said that the body should have gone to his family. I do wish we'd see a story about who might have taken the body for a proper burial and whether Washington even considered it. This story goes into who wouldn't take the body:

In reality, it was unlikely that Saudi Arabia would have allowed a burial on its soil, analysts say. His family, which became rich from the Saudi construction boom, has disowned him, and he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994. ...

Analysts said Washington may have also wanted to avoid any chance of having a known burial spot where sympathisers could visit and perhaps draw inspiration for future attacks.

"For them it is justified politically and psychologically. Because they dont want him to have a shrine," said Mustafa Alani, security analyst at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

Ah, the old shrine issue, again. One commenter on a previous post wondered if the word shrine weren't being used religiously so much as politically. Followers of Bin Laden generally oppose shrines. Violently. They think that visiting the graves and the shrines of prophets, imams and saints is un-Islamic. So what, precisely, is the concern over a known burial spot? Perhaps we'll find out in the next round of stories.

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