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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Doing a Body Good

"The meeting between ignorance and knowledge, between brutality and culture - it begins in the dignity with which we treat our dead"

- Frank Herbert

A lot has been said about what happened to Osama bin Laden, and how he was interred at sea according to Muslim observances. Actually, he was not interred, since that word means to be buried 'in terra,' or in the ground. Anyways, some folks seem to think that the U.S. forces should have done more things, perhaps been a little disrespectful with his corpse. At a minimum, some folks are objecting to our respectful observance of Islamic customs in disposing of his remains.

I would disagree with this idea, and it took me a while to come up with a good explanation for why we should have treated this terrorist's body with respect.

I recalled some instances in the past where the bodies of Americans were desecrated and shown on TV and the internet. The most memorable - and disturbing - example I could think of were the images of our dead servicemen being dragged through the streets of Somalia after their failed mission back in October, 1993. The picture above is of the crew of Super 6-4, the second Black Hawk helicopter shot down in that fight. The only survivor in that picture is the man on the right, Mike Durant. Chances are the photographs of American servicemen being mangled and mistreated were those of the others standing in front of the helicopter.

In Mark Bowden's book, Black Hawk Down, he relates how some Somalians came across the mobs abusing the bodies of our servicemen; one of the witnesses of this, Bashir Haji Yusuf, relates how he wanted to stop the crowd, but couldn't:

"They had a dead American soldier draped over a wheelbarrow....the man's face looked peaceful, distant....[p]eople spat and kicked at the body.

"Bashir followed, appalled. This is terrible. Islam called for reverential treatment and immediate burial of the dead, not this grotesque display. Bashir wanted to stop them, but the crowd was wild."

Some Saudi Arabian soldiers, attached to the UN forces, also confronted a mob which was abusing the body of a dead soldier. They asked them,

"If he is dead, why are you doing this? Aren't you a human being?"

They were warned that if they did not move on, they would also be shot.

Of course, our own Faith demands respect for the body, as mentioned in St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians:

"Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own?
For you are bought with a great priced. Glorify and bear God in your body."

- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

So I think our military was right to bury the body of Osama bin Laden in accordance with his religion, in the proper manner. Unlike the mobs in Somalia, and other places where our troops have fallen and have been desecrated, there will be no pictures around to incite outrage because we did not show this man, even this man, the respect due to any human body.


MightyMom said...

yes, we must hold ourselves to the standard we want to hold others to. But please don't ask me to be sorry, or pray for a soul that was lost to Jesus, I believe that's more than I can handle.

dadwithnoisykids said...

It is not I who ask anything of you.

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Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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