Khalid Latif, chaplain at New York University and director of its Islamic Center, said Islamic law is "flexible" in how it handles burial, especially in this case. The question would be not "how to bury a body, but how Osama bin Laden's body would be buried."
He said the government's approach was reasonable -- letting bin Laden's body, "wash back and forth in the sea."
"If we think about burying him in the ground, there are multiple scenarios," he said. "The problem is people don't want him buried near them or their loved ones. Giving him a place on land would create an opportunity for many individuals to unleash and lash out their rage against him. He made lives terrible for so many of us."
Officials were also worried that having a burial site might become a place where his sympathizers would "glorify" his acts, according to Latif.
"There are people who believe that this man was someone to look up to, even though he distorted our teachings and grossly misinterpreted Islam," he said.
Some critics say the White House was trying to play the "respect-for-Islam" card. But American Islamic leader Jasser said Osama bin Laden is not worthy of that respect.
"As one who is devoted to Islam and its ideology, it makes me nauseated and sick that someone would make sure he had a religious rite given to a man like this because he was an evil barbarian who declared war against our nation," Jasser said.
ABC News' Jake Tapper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.