While America continues to celebrate the timely demise of Osama bin Laden, questions are being asked. Why can't we see pictures of our enemy's corpse to make good and sure he's gone to his proper place? Various officials have argued and even announced that we ought to, but President Obama has made his position perfectly clear:
We don't trot out this stuff as trophies... We don't need to spike the football.
It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool. [emphasis added]
Historically speaking, this is an odd position. In all previous wars, America has reveled in ridiculing and goading its enemies, from calling British soldiers "lobsterbacks" to roaring with laughter at the Oscar-winning Donald Duck cartoon "Der Fuehrer's Face."
On the other hand, there were mere millions of Nazis; there are billions of Muslims. Hence, according to a senior administration official,
We are ensuring [Bin Laden's carcass] is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. It's something we take seriously and therefore it's being handled in an appropriate manner.
Appropriate? What exactly do they mean by that?
After all, we've been told time after time after time that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are not good Muslims - rather, that they've hijacked the peaceful religion of Islam for their own nefarious ends. Obama hammered on this theme in his post-action speech:
We must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity. [emphasis added]
Yes, bin Laden has indeed killed a great many Muslims; lots of Muslim leaders have, not least Iran's Ahmadinejad, but nobody doubts he's a Muslim.
The question is, if bin Laden was a murderer of Muslims, an enemy of Islam, why would ordinary Muslims care how he was buried? If we'd wrapped him in bacon and fed him to the sharks, what difference would it make to them?
Obviously, Mr. Obama thought it would make a difference, or his people wouldn't be so carefully tippytoeing around the question of bin Laden's corpse, its photos, and its treatment. By his actions, he's putting the lie to his own claim of Osama's non-Muslimness.
But really, what business is it of non-Muslims - and yes, Mr. Obama, unlike Osama, is not a Muslim - to decide who is and isn't Muslim? In mourning his death, the genuine Muslims of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called him "Sheikh" which is a title of Muslim authority. Obviously they think he's not merely a Muslim in good standing, but a Muslim leader - and unlike non-Muslim Mr. Obama, they ought to know.
So by claiming to have treated bin Laden's body with some degree of Islamic courtesy, Obama has made it crystal clear that he knows full well that Osama is, in fact, a Muslim - and that most of not all Muslims see him as one. Why is he lying to the American people by saying otherwise? We'd rather hear the truth, even if it's unpleasant.
When Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was put to death, 99.9999% of Christian white males applauded, even though McVeigh was reportedly one of them. He actually wasn't - even Wikipedia acknowledges his identity as an agnostic to whom science was his religion - but nobody bothered to say so at the time. Because it didn't matter - nobody cared.
If McVeigh had been hanged, drawn and quartered, and his entrails torn out and burned, it would have made no difference. Christians, whites, or males were not about to rise up in fury at the mistreatment of one of their own. On the contrary, they were the first to demand immediate and severe punishment for his horrific crime.
The crimes of Osama bin Laden are known to every single person in the world, Muslim or otherwise. Even for Muslims who don't care about dead Christians, bin Laden has bumped off plenty of Muslims too.
If Islam is like all other religions, then bin Laden's claimed religion should make no difference whatsoever - his evil acts put him outside the congregation of any religion. His vile deeds make him an enemy of all men, a barbarian worthy only of death and ignominy.
That this is not so - that Mr. Obama, contradicting himself, clearly sees Osama as a leader of many, many living and dangerous Muslims who yearn to follow his example - clearly proves that Islam is not like other religions and Muslims are not like other peaceful religious people. And Mr. Obama knows it.
Then why won't he say so?
Do we really want to know the answer to that question?