There seems to be some controversy over how Osama’s body was disposed of. Chucking it in the sea apparently is offensive to some Muslims. By some Muslims, I mean some rather important ones. For example, “The Grand Imam, Dr Ahmed El-Tayeb, the sheikh of Al-Azhar
condemned the reports, if true, of the throwing of the body of
Osama bin Laden into the sea,”. Well, this is no dungeon in the back streets of Forest Gate, it’s al Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Islamic world. It’s a serious institution, and we should take what they say seriously.
Less serious, however, is the old ‘Tottenham Ayatollah’ Omar Bakri Mohammad. This rather clownish fellow (as clownish as someone of his extraction can be) claimed “The Americans want to humiliate Muslims through this burial, and I don’t think this is in the interest of the U.S. administration”.
Sheikh Omar doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going. He was here for 20 years during which time he set up al Muhajiroun. He then left to Lebanon after which he was not permitted to return to the UK, despite desperately trying during 2006 war. He can count amongst his esteemed students Andy Chowder, who was on Newsnight giving his view on the bin Laden death. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether Andy is serious or just having a laugh with us all, but I hope that the general public see him the way I (and probably Jeremy Paxman) do – a bit of light entertainment.
Back to the point. Why is this a big issue? Is it a desperate clutch at the last straw to venerate bin Laden in an oblique way so as to not appear to overtly support him? Thousands of Muslims have had their bodies violated in the most despicable ways – often at the hands of other Muslims.
Despite the well-meaning, strained assertion by people – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – that only a minority of Muslims support OBL and his movement, I don’t think that it’s a particularly small minority. Infact, by any reasonable person’s standards, it’s probably a remarkably large one.
Furthermore, who is a Muslim? It seems that bin Laden, despite all he had done, was firmly a Muslim. Yet some will use the flimsiest excuse to excommunicate people from the religion. One of the most absurd off the top of my head is the example of the “sorcerer” from a Lebanese TV channel who was arrested in Saudi Arabia and faced beheading for apostacy. Ironically, he was on his way to Hajj. I don’t know what transpired of that, but an Egyptian man was, infact beheaded for the same “crime” of sorcery. http://tinyurl.com/444l2pu and http://tinyurl.com/ya8xbho.
This leads us back to Iraq. In the 1991 Gulf War, the then Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, ibn Baaz, issued a fatwa that Saddam was a kafir. This is incongruent with Saddam’s later veneration by the likes of Qaradhawi as a martyr, who seemed to be following the trend of the Arab street. Some have tried to back-peddle the ibn Baaz fatwa, others just say he is not to be taken seriously (there are two kinds of Salafi, the house Salafi, who is in the pay-role of authority or yielding to it, and the field Salafi, who has something of a shorter half-life). Who is, and is not a Muslim seems to have some correlation with politics and popularism (no really?).
Nevertheless, Saddam was buried in his grave, which was adorned with flowers, flags and pictures, has prayers read over it and is visited by his supporters. It was not his burial that was controversial, of course, it was his execution. It was seen, quite simply, as overt American and Shia gloating, and there was clearly fury over it amongst many Sunni Muslims. I recall watching the Islam channel when Yvonne Ridley was in Mecca talking to some Saudi, on the occasion of Eid al Adhha. The Saudi mentioned that the Shia need to be careful how they cultivate their victories, because they are a minority in the Arab lands and they can be killed quite easily. I refrain from quoting, but those were pretty much his words as I recall them. Ms Ridly became very quickly and noticeably uncomfortable, saying something along the lines of it being Hajj and Muslims are supposed to be coming together.
Personally I couldn’t care less about people being offended by Saddam’s execution, or whether it was perceived to be gloating, if anything, it’s a nice bonus. What was more concerning was that there were revenge attacks, such as people being hung from lamp-posts, or executed in other ways. Did the Iraq government do the right thing, given what followed? Should we yield to bullies? Were they not going to kill anyway? I don’t know, but my only concern is the safety and security of Iraqis, not the sensitivities, religious or otherwise, of supporters of horrid murderers like Saddam and Osama….except, of course in as far as they affect the aforementioned concern.