May 2nd, 2011
08:49 AM ET

My Take: Burying bin Laden at sea an elegant solution

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

As I watched news reports of the death of Osama bin Laden late Sunday night and into the morning, I worried about one thing: What would be done with his body?

One of the perverse promises of Islamic terrorism is that it can transform ordinary people into martyrs for Allah. So I did not want to see bin Laden’s burial place turned into an Al Qaeda Mecca — a pilgrimage site for Muslim extremists and an assembly line for martyrs to come.

Now comes word that the mastermind behind Al Qaeda has been buried at sea.

U.S. officials said early this morning that bin Laden’s body had been treated in “accordance with Islamic practice.” Islamic practice, however, calls for corpses to be buried as quickly as possible — ideally within hours.  And it forbids cremation.

The United States needed some time, of course, to make the case that the corpse they were holding was, in fact, that of bin Laden — to perform an autopsy, perhaps, and to take photos and perhaps videos to show to the world.

'No land alternative' prompts bin Laden sea burial

Yet it needed to do all this quickly and in a manner that did not turn the Al Qaeda leader into more of a martyr than he has already become.

Burial at sea is an elegant solution to this problem. It is permissible under Islamic law, and it does not provide any one location that followers can turn into a shrine to global terrorism.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: 9/11 • Death • Islam • Opinion • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan

soundoff (499 Responses)
  1. HoustonSteve

    I'm not sure this was such a great plan. I can imagine the conspiracy theories that will emerge suggesting we really didn't kill him. They should have put is body in a freezer, or encased him in plastic like a giant paperweight or something so if there is ever any doubt, legit organizations can come inspect him for themselves.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  2. Jeff

    I am definitely all for this method of disposal. Don't give the terrorists a body to rally around.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  3. ewrj

    He should have been fed to the pigs.
    Recall the Patton legend?

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  4. gone

    his supporters must hate we dumped him in the ocean. love it.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  5. pinoycity

    Those Navy Seals are the real action heroes and not those so-called Hollywood action stars who cannot really handle a gun. These soldiers deserve the millions thrown at those actors.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  6. Nene

    Look at whose trying to get reelected...

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  7. Matt

    Burial in the Bay of Pigs????

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  8. tlocke

    Hopefully they wrapped him in bacon before dropping him in the sea..

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  9. Thomas

    Actually if they gave him a burial in the Amazon river near a school of piranha, that would have been fine with me.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • Gutshot55

      Naaaaa, they eat flesh, not manure...

      May 2, 2011 at 10:05 am |
  10. JB

    They should have dug a hole at the Trade Center site and thrown him in there so everyone that walked by could spit on him.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • George Washington

      That's a terrible idea. Terrorist pilgrims mixing with victim's families. What a disaster that would be.

      May 3, 2011 at 4:45 am |
  11. Deuce

    Oh please, Osama's been dead for years. They just pulled him out of the freezer, thawed him out, took some photos, and disposed of the corpse...

    He'd run his course as a convenient bogeyman, and Obama wants a second term. Elegant solution to both, wouldn't you say?

    May 2, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • xactomundo

      I think you spell your name wrong... it's D-O-U-C-H-E...

      May 2, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • DC

      If this were true, wouldn't Obama wait until it's a little closer to the elections. 1 1/2 years away isn't exactly "convenient" for his re-election purposes....

      May 2, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • happyrobot

      Yes, a re-election stunt ... a year and a half from the elections. What genius to pull off a stunt where the good feelings will have worn off and leaving ample time for things to go wrong well before any election. I might be more convinced this was a political stunt if it happened in September or october 2012, or even in 2012. Yes, obama will always be the president who got bin laden, but it would be so much more politically powerful, in terms of elections, if it happened a year from now. But, then again, guess it is hard to actually give credit where credit is due.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • John in NY

      For what you say to be true first we would have to believe that the Bush administration kept Bin Laden's death a secret. Why exactly would he do that?

      Next is the simple question, and that is if Obama had Bin Laden sitting in a freezer for a couple years and then decided to thaw him out for political gain why do so now when doing so right before the next Presidental election would have ensured his re-election? Yes this occurance will likely help, but 18 months is a VERY long time and a lot can happen.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • the one who really knows

      The freezer is in Kenya, just a few short steps from the hut where Obama was born.

      May 2, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • Matt


      May 2, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Ken in MO

      Holy Cow! The man produced his birth certificate. Everyone in the US government would have to be in collusion to fake his birth certificate. How about if you had to prove you were born in the US? All you would have is your birth certificate. Please...Sarah Palin and Donald Trump need to put away the white sheets and amit they are not very bright and just simply bigots!!!

      May 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • clarke

      troll much

      May 2, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Truthseeker

      I agree. Seems far too coincidental and rather convenient. I have to say that all this wonderful hype on our president surely has turned focus away from the whole questioning of his birth certificate and has shifted the focus to the "death" of Osama Bin Laden. Propaganda pure and simple. Distract the sheep with shiny objects and they will turn their heads and forget all about other things that might be going on in the world.

      May 2, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  12. 4theGood

    Ungraciously tossed from a helicopter like shark chum? Sounds like justice!

    May 2, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  13. Joe

    Burial at sea is another word for chucking him off the side of a Navy boat.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • Amanda

      In many pieces, I hope!

      May 2, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  14. BD70

    Perfect! Bin Laden gets to give back as fish food!

    May 2, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  15. DKS

    It's not an elegant solution.....it's a perfect solution. He is now fish food. The Italian Mafia couldn't have done it any better.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • The Corleone's

      True, however we would have found him faster 😉

      May 2, 2011 at 9:57 am |
  16. Mike

    I'm glad we got him. However, there will be little change around the world as far as terrorism goes, and we will probably see a short-term rise in attacks by Bin Ladens followers. A new leader will emerge. One always does. The bad guys are not going away, and they still hate us and our way of life. For them, business as usual, and for us.......................who knows.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  17. Onegood1

    The Shaka Zulu method would have worked best. Especially if they had time to show it on a webcam for international broadcasting.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  18. Tanya

    We would all like to see him buried under the new WTC but following the Islamic religous beliefs is important to prevent backlash against the USA which we are already subject. Not following these beliefs would escalate the the severity of backlash.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • Amanda

      If they buried him at the WTC, that would have been awful! If I had lost a loved one at WTC, the last thing I would want is this monster anwhere near my loved one's last place on earth.

      May 2, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  19. Kdb

    I love it! I just hope it was in the deepest, darkest and most frigid depth of ocean they could find. Too bad they weren't near the Mariana Trench!

    May 2, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • f

      Won't matter how COLD the ocean is where they dumped his bag of ShiiiiiiiT body. He'll he very HOT where he's going. Surprise !!!!!!!! NO VIRGINS FOR YOU !!!!!!!

      May 2, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  20. Scott

    I hope the weight attached to him to pull him to the ocean seabead below had "Made in the US" stamped on it.

    May 2, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Bob B

      I love it!!

      May 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • San

      It could very well be "Made in China!".. 🙂 I am sure he has already become Shark Food!

      May 2, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • Boheme

      Fat chance...More likrely Made in China, sold by Halliburton with 500 profit margin..

      May 2, 2011 at 10:02 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.