Bin Laden's Body Cleansed Before Sea Burial - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Bin Laden's Body Cleansed Before Sea Burial

MSNBC.COM - Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was buried at sea from the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the north Arabian Sea after being washed according to Islamic custom during a religious funeral, a U.S. defense official said Monday.

"Preparations for at-sea burial began at 1:10 a.m. EST and were completed at 2 a.m. EST," the official said. "Traditional procedures for Islamic burial were followed."

The official described the procedure to NBC News as follows:

  • The deceased's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet.
  • The body was placed in a weighted bag.
  • A military officer read prepared religious remarks that were translated into Arabic by a native speaker.
  • After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body eased into the sea from the USS Carl Vinson.

The rites sparked a debate about Islamic customs, with some Muslim clerics calling the procedure humiliating and others saying it was proper.

A U.S. official said that the burial decision was made after concluding that it would have been difficult to find a country willing to accept the remains. There also was speculation about worry that a grave site could have become a rallying point for militants.

President Barack Obama said the remains had been handled in accordance with Islamic custom, which requires speedy burial.

U.S. officials told NBC News that the Quran is not specific about burials, as long as the body of the deceased is cleansed quickly. There is no single authoritative Islamic text on burial, they said.

The standard Muslim practice is placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca, some clerics said. Sea burials can be allowed, they said, but only in special cases where the death occurred aboard a ship.

"The Americans want to humiliate Muslims through this burial, and I don't think this is in the interest of the U.S. administration," said Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical cleric in Lebanon.

He called the burial a "strategic mistake" that was bound to stoke rage.

Khalid Latif, executive director and chaplain for the Islamic Center at New York University, disagreed.

"I think the White House showed an immense amount of wisdom in the manner they decided to bury him," Latif told msnbc.com.

Latif, also a New York Police Department chaplain, said that under Islamic law it would be important to weigh the impact that bin Laden's burial anywhere on land would have on most people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"Given the fact that this person was one of the most hated individuals who ever lived, we have to be mindful of what his burial means to people on the whole of the earth," he said. "I wouldn't want my brother, my father, my loved one to be buried anywhere near him."

"My bigger concern is not the treatment of his body … my bigger concern here is what impact (the burial) has on people as a whole."

Latif said he hoped bin Laden's death would mean the end to a painful chapter for Muslim and non-Muslim relations.

"Muslims really hated this man," he said. "He has caused so many problems for Muslims in general."

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