Belief Beat

So much for the royal wedding stealing the thunder of Pope John Paul’s beatification, the Bible Belt tornado deaths, the “60 Minutes” interview with Lara Logan about her assault in Cairo, and all the other news going on this weekend — the top story now, faith-related and otherwise, is certainly the confirmed death of Osama bin Ladin.

(Ah, how I wish I were still in New York for this news.)

President Obama’s televised address to the jubilant nation included an important sentiment for Islamophobes and Muslims alike:

As we do, 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.

A few hours later, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued the following statement:

“We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of American military personnel. As we have stated repeatedly since the 9/11 terror attacks, bin Laden never represented Muslims or Islam. In fact, in addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide. We also reiterate President Obama’s clear statement tonight that the United States is not at war with Islam.”

And the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) “greeted the news of the death of Osama bin Laden with an immense sense of relief. This is a time when our country must  stand together, and turn the page on a decade of terror led by bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.” From the group’s press release:

“We hope this is a turning point away from the dark period of the last decade, in which bin Laden symbolized the evil face of global terrorism,” said MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati. “His actions and those of Al-Qaeda have violated the sacred Islamic teachings upholding the sanctity of all human life. His acts of senseless terror have been met with moral outrage by Muslims worldwide at every turn in the past decade.”

Here are some of the headlines from my religion news sources — I’ll add more throughout the next 24 hours:

Nothing from CNN Belief Blog yet, but contributor Stephen Prothero posted on Facebook tonight, “US must be VERY careful about what it does with Osama bin Laden’s body.” I presumed that he was referring to a concern that any egregious mistreatment of his body – particularly in terms of Islamic tradition – would become fodder for retaliatory terrorism, but he has further clarified his remark, “So important there is no pilgrimage site for his followers to come to adulate him as a martyr.” Also a good point.  Here’s Prothero’s My Take: Burying bin Laden at sea an elegant solution.

Edited to add: Reuters confirmed the body was being handled in accordance with Islamic tradition, and the L.A. Times explains the logic behind the sea burial.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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