A note to readers: Some links in this post are graphic in nature.
This week, the world was told that Osama bin Laden is dead. Messages from The White House and news media tell us that the leader of terrorist group al-Quaeda was killed by U.S. military forces.
For some people, this news is enough to move forward in some way after 9/11. For others, it’s simply not enough.
We’ve been told bin Laden’s body was photographed, DNA-tested, then buried at sea. Some, though, believe it’s all a hoax. Another conspiracy. A cover-up.
Many people took to the streets to cheer and whoop it up, celebrating the demise of a man who the US said masterminded a catastrophic series of events when the revelers were mere toddlers. Others took to their Facebook pages and forwarded the following quote, believing it was written in its entirety by Martin Luther King, Jr.:
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." In actuality, the first line of that quote (in italics) was written by Jessica Dovey on her Facebook page…then mistakenly attributed by others to MLK Jr.
Still others, like Julianna Baggott in her NPR article, remind us that when those of us middle-agers were younger, we hollered for anything we could.
Currently, the White House is considering whether or not to release a photograph of a deceased Osama bin Laden.
Here’s my take on it.
Just put the photo out there. As gruesome and violent and horrifying as it might be (apparently he was shot in the head and in the chest), I believe the photo will make its way to the public anyway, just as President Kennedy’s postmortem photos were, just as Saddam Hussein’s sons’ photos were, just as John Lennon’s photo was, etc.
One argument for releasing the photo goes something like this: “Oh come on! We see dead people on TV every day. Newspapers and websites show photos of them more and more frequently. Movies depict them (or suggest their presence) as a matter of habit. What’s the big deal? Bring it.”
What about those who are upset about bin Laden’s burial at sea? I’ve heard people say, “He’s a Muslim, so that just wasn’t right.” Consider what Wikipedia says about Islamic funerals:
... if there is a concern about the exhumation and defiling of the body by an enemy, then it should be lowered into the sea… This is, however, a tradition, specific to each culture, and not found in the Quran. However, even in cases of drowning, all effort must be made to perform a burial in the ground.
An important tradition is that if it is likely that an enemy may try to dig up the grave or destroy the grave site, then it would be acceptable to bury the body in an unmarked grave - which might allow for a burial at sea. If a person drowns, there should be an effort made to seek the person's body and to bury it in the ground.
— Dr. Christian van Gorder, associate professor of religion at Baylor University
Personally, I’m relieved the US kept looking for Osama bin Laden until he was found. I’m disappointed by the way many people celebrated his death in a party-like fashion – especially since he’s known to have a large family. As many of us can attest, not every family member is in his or her right mind. I understand and agree with the government’s rationale for a burial at sea – it would have been too difficult and dangerous to keep people (followers and haters alike) from claiming it for themselves.
Finally, I’m nervous. I know there are people in this world who believed everything Osama bin Laden preached; that now, more than ever before, they feel an obligation to uphold his principles and carry out his blurred vision of humanity.