Re: The OBL Burial Issue

by Steven F. Hayward

Like Shannen, I’ve been puzzling over the burial of OBL at sea, too. I’ve also been reviewing the details of the controversy between Churchill and Lord Kitchener about the disposition of the Mahdi’s remains after the British victory at Omdurman in 1898 (post forthcoming), where some of the very same issues came up.

But as a human interest matter, I’m curious about who presided over the Islamic equivalent of last rites for bin Laden on the aircraft carrier. I am guessing that this potential moment was pondered years ago, and a detailed plan has been sitting on a shelf at the Pentagon for a while now. Did they fly in an Islamic clergyman just for the occasion? If so, what was he told about his task ahead of time, and what did he think when he found out who it was he would be consecrating? Or was it a serving America clergyman of the Islamic faith already on the crew? The same question would apply. Or, even more problematic, were the last rites administered by non-Islamic personnel reading from the playbook? Again, this is another story waiting for some enterprising and well-connected journalist.