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President Obama is right about Osama: ‘justice has been done’

But we ‘Crusaders’ need now to behave with extreme care: the Muslim world is a tinder-box

By on Thursday, 5 May 2011

A man hangs photos of Osama bin Laden at the  National Press Club in Islamabad (AP Photo/B K Bangash)

A man hangs photos of Osama bin Laden at the National Press Club in Islamabad (AP Photo/B K Bangash)

Fr Federico Lombardi, the pope’s press spokesman, said in a statement earlier this week that we should not rejoice at the death of any human being (even though it was Osama Bin Laden). This is how he put it:

Osama bin Laden – as we all know – was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the end of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end.

Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace.

I have to say, these words gave me pause for thought, since to rejoice at the death of this truly evil man had indeed been my first impulse (and actually, even on reflection, is my second impulse, too). But pondering on Fr Lombardi’s words in the context of some of the more unbridled expressions of rejoicing seen on television news reports, outside the White House and in the streets of New York, one could see what he meant: it was not a pretty sight. Nevertheless, when President Obama (in an oration of great dignity and restrained power) ended his words by saying simply “Justice has been done”, I could not forbear to say simply: “Amen to that.”

Those words of Fr Lombardi’s, though, about behaving “so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred” are right on target. That’s why the President is right not to publish the photographs of Osama’s body. (Incidentally, that’s how we should refer to him, as “Osama”: Arabic linguistic convention is to to refer to him as “Osama” or “Osama bin Laden”, not “bin Laden” alone, since “bin Laden” is just a patronymic (“son of”, as in Hebrew “Ben”), not a surname in the western manner.)

If the President published the photographs, they would undoubtedly be used by his followers for propaganda purposes, as “an opportunity for further growth of hatred”. We need at this point to think carefully about the result of our actions. Will those scenes of rejoicing so inflame some radicalised young Muslim that he commits some further atrocity? Who knows?

We have to understand the American mindset, of course. The attacks on 9/11 were a trauma that we can hardly understand, who lived through the Blitz (and yes, I did live through it myself, and have dim memories of being taken to the nearest air-raid shelter) during which every night many times the death toll of 9/11 might occur. This was the first time that such a slaughter had occurred on American soil: and a Hitler-figure, a charismatic incarnation of evil, without whom this atrocity would not have occurred, did exist. He had a name. We knew what he looked like. So how could his death be regarded as anything else but as a triumph of American arms and a source of satisfaction? When Hitler’s death was announced, my parents rejoiced; and they (and many others) never forgave Eamonn de Valera for paying a visit of condolence to the German Embassy in Dublin.

Presumably Dev thought that whether one approved of this particular Head of State or not, there were certain decencies to be observed. Already there are accusations that these decencies were not observed in Osama’s case. Muslim “scholars” have pronounced that burying a Muslim at sea is against Muslim religious law except in extremis. The Americans insist that Muslim practice was observed. But was it? Was an imam, maybe a Muslim chaplain to the US forces, involved in the funeral rites? They claim that it was: “The burial of bin Laden’s remains was done in strict conformance with Islamist precepts and practices,” said John Brennan, one of President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism advisers, according to one news report.

But were they?

“Islamic burial traditions call for several practices after one’s death,” said Alam Payind, director of the Middle East Studies Center at Ohio State [University]. The corpse must be washed by a same-sex cleric and wrapped in a simple cloth, called a kafan, to respect the dignity and privacy of the deceased. After the corpse has been prepared, prayers are offered for the forgiveness of the dead and the body is buried….

“Many Muslim authorities are outraged with the burial ceremony and believe bin Laden’s burial was in serious violation of Islamic tradition and lacked respect.

“Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque told the AP that bin Laden’s burial at sea ‘runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs.’

“He said every effort must be made for in-ground burial, and he doesn’t believe the US made these efforts. “

It won’t quite do to say that he didn’t deserve any such consideration. Do not misunderstand me. The newspaper headline “Rot in Hell” may be gross in the extreme, but I can’t find it in me to condemn the feeling behind it. All the same, we need now to tread with great care; we are at a dangerous moment. The Islamic world is a tinder-box: rumours there can be invented and without any evidence to support them can be widely credited with an ease that we sceptical westerners can hardly understand (I speak as one who has lived and worked in a Muslim country).

Any military action in which a Muslim leader is killed by westerners will be seen by many as yet another Crusader outrage. Let’s all (especially in the US) calm down now. On reflection, most Muslim opinion will recall that this was not a man who deserved any kind of support from them. Until then, the less said by us Crusaders the better.

  • Anonymous

    Surely he deserves a proper burial because he is a human being, not for pragmatic reasons. Did Jesus not say “love your enemies”?

  • Anonymous

    Er You can’t help it?

    I’m afraid you have to help it – Them’s the rules! It’s what Christ commands of us:Demands from us.

    Joy? Are you sure it’s not being confused with exuberant relief that one aspect of the battle against evil is over..?.

    But that this pitiful, fallen, misguided fool who had so subsumed himself in hatred and inhumanity that he became a residual speck of that which he was called to be…he died in his regrets and his sorrow – only God knows what torments ravaged within him – how engulfed in self-delusion – how much he was a sinner and how much he was sinned against.

    Charity goes beyond all demands for Justice – The wells of Dine Mercy have depths beyond the beyond.

    Original Sin led to this – admittedly he had the will and the opportunity to open himself to grace at every turn to escape from this and return to the Father who called him into being – but St Augustine reminds us [and von Balthasar's and His Holiness's excellent inspirational profound work on the diachronicity of grace [ergo its preclusion via sin] ] it is our personal sin – private and public – which conspires in the very nature of original sin. We are our brother’s keeper in more ways than we can ever imagine.

    Yeah he was a bastard – he revelled in blood – he advocated hate at every turn – and worse he used God as justification for it – a deplorably heinous affront to the Lord, the giver of Life ; and worse he led many thousands into his web of evil with his mendacities and bitterness
    This was never meant to be.

    But let’s not forget – an evil regime – accepted by the west – nurtured and raised him; a history [however revisionist] of violence and oppression over the centuries – fuelled his hatred – the negligence of the oppressor over the oppressed gave the lunatic rantings of this madman credence – and for many he became a source of some ‘hope’ in revenge and retribution for their lot…He was also rich and spoiled and arrogant – and all of this was approved of within his culture and among his family and peers. They share the guilt.

    In many ways – we and our ancestors are responsible for this – everyone has a home – and every home has a history.In many ways we artificially intervened in people’s lives – and we reaped the whirlwind.
    We paid them for years to kill Russians for us – to grow opium to destroy Russian society with heroin – we even paid Afghan women to torture and kill Russian soldiers by flaying them! we incentivised the violence – we justified their actions and made their ideology thrive and their wahabism become intensified – and when a readily available source of funds came from the Saudi regime – a country we always shirked from opposing despite their obscene record on human rights and their violent oppression and execution of any opponents?

    He made the choices – but so many around him provided greater opportunity for those choices!!!

    But now? We cannot allow his malevolent hate to contaminate us…
    Despite every urge to feel justified in rejoicing he’s dead – we are better than that – we go beyond his level…we do not stoop.

    Every day we pray ‘forgive us…as we forgive’ – ‘pray for us sinners’
    Time to actually show we mean what we say – that we can aspire to that perfection to which we’re called.

    Time to prove we’re the salt of the earth – that we really are trying to be better….and live according to Heaven’s ways and see through Heaven’s eyes.

    Ultimately we should feel more than a modicum of shame that one of our own can fall so low.

    But then again so many see Osama as the monster and Obama the hero.

    I see Obama as more of a monster than I’ve ever witnessed before on the political scene: he revels in the genocide of the unborn to a maniacal extent.
    They both desperately need our prayers.

  • Annelouise17

    Justice? more like revenge

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure that “justice” is the right word. There was no judicial process unless he was tried “in absentia”. It strikes me as a simple case of self-defence by the Americans against a man who had attacked them and continued to threaten them. After all he had had ten years to surrender himself to justice if that is what he wanted. As for his burial I am certain that there would have always been some Imam who said it was done incorrectly whatever the Americans had done. Anyway I am sure that Muslims have frequently buried people at sea being great sea traders.

  • RJ

    Not entirely sure it was self-defence but, on the other hand, if the Seals judged themselves to be threatened in the circumstances, then ok. Apart from that reservation, I agree with you.

  • Athanasiusi

    What a despicably stupid conclusion to what could have been a reasonably good letter.
    I liked William Oddie’s article very much and I agree with him. I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury’s remark about” feeling uncomfortable” about the fact that OBL was unarmed just a lot of pious drivel really quite stupid for someone in a position of authority. Just as the thoughts he had some time ago about introducing Sharia Law into the UK;. What is this man thinking about . Introducing NON Christian Laws into his own Christian country? Has he gone mad?
    OBL was unarmed so WHAT? Were the 3000 people in the Twin Towers able to save themselves? Did he give them a choice? No when he first heard of the news about the Twin Towers ” his heart was filled with joy”. Now the Archbishop is quibbling about the fact that he was unarmed, what a poor little fool he is. I would advise the Archbishop in future to keep his mouth firmly shut. Why is the Church of England in such a sorry state? I leave the answer to you. Think about it.


  • Anonymous

    You really expect me to respond to this?

    Ok – I don’t give tuppence what Dr Williams says – but I do care a great deal about what Archbishop Nichols constantly refuses to say!

    This was murder – justify it any way you wish – but if you try you’ll be either deluded or a scoundrel.

  • Dcruz

    Bin laden has left a plan to target the west specially big satan U. S.A. as he calls it and this was disclosed in the videos left behind to continue his mission as dsiclosed by the media.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry sir – self-defence only applies against an immediate direct lethal [and unjust] aggressor.

    You can’t kill unless there is an absolute necessity to do so in the prevention of an objective evil.

    Sorry but we don’t live according to the ways of ‘human justice’ – Catholicism demands more.

    Ironically this ‘ongoing threat argument’ is almost akin to the specious argument about time-travel and killing Hitler as a baby…why are there problems in law with cases of battered wives who kill their husbands in self defence by poison rather than a kitchen knife? Direct threat must be proven!

  • Anonymous

    Even if we accept your principles as being correct we are in no position to judge whether they applied in this case. We do not know what the rules of engagement were. Osama was effectively at war with the U.S.A. and they had a right to defend themselves. I do not know what the rules of engagement were for the forces involved. One hopes they were of the order of “Capture him but do not take any chances”. We do not know how the U.S. soldiers saw the situation. They were faced with a man who dealt out murder in the form of suicide bombers. How were they to know that the whole compound was not mined to be blown up at the touch of a buttton? If they feared that then they may well have been justified if Osama made any movement. We simply do not know and I think we should not be too ready to rush to judgement.

    As for Obama he is presumably deluded by the devil over abortions but I think it a bit much to say that he revels in them.

  • Anonymous

    Obama personally had an on-the-record tantrum and demanded that it be legislated that all babies who survived abortion must be immediately murdered – he declared it a personal mission to further the pro-Choice cause [including partial birth abortions] – he was behind the legislation permitting embryo-factories in Illinois – it most definitely IS an obsession with the gentleman.

    Now – back to the ‘rules of engagement’ – doesn’t matter – we’re talking about morality here – and if they demanded an execution when there was no direct imminent threat – that’s judicial murder!

    We’re not talking about what the law demands – or what the president or the Chiefs of staff deem as acceptable – we’re talking about the fundamental catholic moral theological teaching on the issue – and that’s categorical – it’s judicial murder! [a latae sententiae excommunicable offence]

    Remember what we’ve eventually been told – Osama was unarmed – a single shot was fired by those in the compound – by the courier on the ground – OBL was two floors up…

    Legality versus morality – what the soldiers did/were commanded to do is an irrelevance when an unarmed man is shot dead – irrespective of who he was.

  • Anonymous

    The rules of engagement are relevant here. If they said “Go and kill him whatever” then I would agree that that would be murder. But surely the guilt would not only be with the person who fired the shots but also with the the person who ordered the rules of engagement. I do not know what the rules were so I withhold making a judgement of the superior officers. Likewise I do not known what dangers the soldier who fired the shot was facing so or suspected he was facing so I withhold judgement there as well.

  • Dcruz

    Obama thinks he has done a right thing killing Osama but he is not aware that avery large segments of muslim think he is a hero and should have been given a muslim burial somewhere in the world.His followers in every country of the world are planning for the future and to continue his mission.

  • John Smith

    “Many Muslim authorities are outraged with the burial ceremony and
    believe bin Laden’s burial was in serious violation of Islamic tradition
    and lacked respect. Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb of Cairo’s al-Azhar
    mosque told the AP that bin Laden’s burial at sea ‘runs contrary to the
    principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs.’

    What? Huh? REALLY?
    F*CK YOU, you towel-headed, camel-jockey sand n*ggers!!!  Tradition? Respect? Principles? HUMANITARIAN customs??  You murderous, delusional, hate-filled SAND N*GGERS wouldn’t know the meaning of any of these words in kind, the way you’ve treated the bodies of the dead “infidels” you’ve gunned down, decapitated, burned, and hung in effigy around the Middle East.  Violations of laws and values??  What the F*CK do you hellbound Arabic assholes and your multiple cunt wives know about any of this?  What was September 11, 2001 with regards to humanitarianism, values, traditions, or respect?  F*CK YOU, all of you Derka-Derka-Muhammed-Jihad assholes, and more so to any Euro-American pascifist liberal granola-eating cock smoking pussies who support you, appease you, and defend you. F*CK YOU and may you and yours rot and burn in eternal hellfire like your beloved prince, bin Laden.