Osama Bin Laden Sea Burial Video May Be Released

Photos of terrorist's body could also be released, officials say.

May 2, 2011, 9:19 AM

May 2, 2011— -- Video of Osama bin Laden's dead body being dropped into the North Arabian Sea from the USS Carl Vinson early this morning could be made public, according to officials.

The 40-minute ceremony, and perhaps photos of his corpse, will be released "cautiously," according to The Associated Press, citing two Pentagon officials.

The world's most notorious terrorist did not receive a customary Islamic burial as he was slipped into the North Arabian Sea today when no others countries would accept his body, according to experts in Muslim funeral rites.

"Dumping the body into the sea is not part of any Islamic ritual," said Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a physician of internal medicine. "Koranic scripture says God created him and he must return to the earth."

U.S. officials told ABC News that the last thing they wanted was to create a burial place which could become a terrorist shrine. To avoid that, bin Laden was buried at sea.

Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan said earlier today that the administration would likely release an image of bin Laden's body. He added that they would do so carefully as, "We don't want to do anything to compromise our ability to be successful the next time we get one of these guys and take him off the battlefield," he said.

Complete coverage of the death of bin Laden.

The corpse was taken to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, officials told ABC News. The ceremony, done according to Islamic law, began about 1:10 a.m. today EST and lasted about 45 minutes, according to officials.

Traditional washing of the body was followed by wrapping in white sheets. A military officer read religious remarks that were translated by a native Arabic speaker, then bin Laden was eased into the sea.

Officials said no other alternatives were available.

"We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition," an administration official said. "This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner."

It is rare, but when a body must be buried at sea, there are rules, according to Al Islam online.

The body should be lowered into the water, "in a vessel of clay or a weight tied to its feet," and as far as possible, it should "not be lowered at a point where it is eaten up immediately by sea predators."

Tradition dictates that the body is washed by Muslim men and a funeral prayer is said, then it is buried as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of death. The body is wrapped in a shroud of white cloth and the face is moved toward Mecca. The remains are always buried in the earth.

Similar to the orthodox Jewish tradition, bodies cannot be embalmed or in any way preserved and the coffin, if used, must be wooden.

Cremation is prohibited, because it is considered disrespectful, and unless a person died in an accident at sea, they would never be thrown in the water, according to Dr. Muzamil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America and a scholar on the legal systems of Islam.

"They don't even have a casket -- the body is in the ground," he said. "After a person dies, the body is treated like any other human being. We don't do a retaliation on the dead body."

Scholars say that even those who are criminals and murderers are given the Islamic rite of burial.

"Even those who are executed have a proper burial given to them," Siddiqi said. "It is strictly forbade any mutilation -- even of the enemy's body."

God reckons with a person's deeds in the afterlife on judgment day, he said.

"This is not a normal procedure," Siddiqi said. "But if scholars in Pakistan said this is OK, it's OK."

Sources told ABC News that President Obama authorized the bombing of a compound outside Islamabad in Pakistan last March, but worried about collateral damage and wanted evidence of bin Laden's body and DNA evidence.

No photos have been released.

Instead, he authorized a daring operation for ground troops to enter the compound low to the ground and undetected. It was scheduled for Friday afternoon, but because of weather, was postponed until Sunday.

Critics Say Bin Laden Didn't Deserve Rites

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.

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