Excommunicating Dead Terrorists, by Leor Halevi

Muhammad's GraveIn a past post, Columbia University Press authors Bruce Hoffman and Ami Pedazhur looked at the geopolitical and security issues raised by the Mumbai attacks. In his article Excommunicating Dead Terrorists, Leor Halevi, author of Muhammad’s Grave: Death Rites and the Making of Islamic Society, explores the religious issues relating to the burial of the slain terrorists.

As Halevi points out the Muslim Council of India asked that the dead terrorists be denied burial in India’s largest graveyards since their acts went against the principles of Islam. Halevi explores the various possibilities of what to the with the bodies, including sending them back to Pakistan, a modified burial ceremony, or to cremate the bodies and spread their ashes over international waters as Israel did after executing Adolf Eichmann in 1962.

Halevi argues that this last method is the best, writing:

Cremation would neither shame the bodies of dead terrorists, nor haunt the minds of would-be terrorists, as powerfully as would a symbolic inversion of standard Muslim rites. But it would convey an effective, reasonable and humanistic message to the world: that a Muslim who commits terrorism dies excommunicated, as an infidel.

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