Indonesia's top clerics condemn sea burial of Osama bin Laden


Hundreds of Indonesian Muslim students shout 'Allah O Akbar' and hold posters of suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden September 26, 2001 during a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. The student protest was in reaction to anticipated U.S. retaliatory attacks against terrorists in Afghanistan.


Edy Purnomo

Indonesia’s highest Islamic body has condemned the controversial sea burial of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces, AFP reports.

The United States says that bin Laden’s body was “eased” into the North Arabian Sea after being given Muslim rites aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, in order to prevent the possibility that a burial site on land could be turned into a shrine. The U.S. Navy says that burial at sea is a routine practice, according to The Associated Press.

However, the sea burial has drawn criticism from some Islamic clerics, who say that bin Laden’s body should have been buried in the ground with the head facing Mecca, in accordance with tradition.

The Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), which is the top Islamic body in Indonesia, has strongly criticized the sea burial of bin Laden, saying that “it was done with extraordinary hatred against him” and the body should have been buried in the earth.

“A Muslim, whatever his profession, even a criminal, their rites must be respected. There must be a prayer and the body should be wrapped in white cloth before being buried in the earth, not at sea,” MUI chief H. Amidhan told AFP.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. President Barack Obama lived there as a child after his mother, an anthropologist, moved to Jakarta to join her second husband, who was Indonesian.

The Indonesian government has tightened security in the country's capital, Jakarta, since the death of bin Laden, with extra police and military stationed at hotels, embassies and other Western targets.

Some radical extremists in Indonesia have sought to turn bin Laden into a martyr, writes GlobalPost’s Patrick Winn. A group known as the Islamic Defenders Front has said it plans to hold a “mass prayer” to “express gratitude to the late martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden” on Wednesday in Jakarta.

Security in Bali, where 202 people were killed in the 2002 terrorist bombings, has also been ramped up for fear of possible reprisal attacks by extremists.

The office of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has issued a statement saying that “Indonesia has a common spirit with other nations in fighting against terrorism,” but falling short of condemning the killing of bin Laden.