Mumbai Muslim clerics refuse to bury Islamist attackers
Have you seen this story in your local newspaper? Mumbai’s top Islamic clerics have refused to bury the nine Islamist militants killed during the three-day siege in the city. Declaring the rampage proved they could not have been true Muslims, they declared that no Muslim cemetery in India would accept them. A debate has broken out about what to do with the bodies, which according to Muslim custom should have been buried within a few hours of death.
(Photo: Palestinian funeral for Hamas militant killed fighting Israeli troops in Gaza, 17 Oct 2007/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
The reason I ask whether your local newspaper ran this story is that Muslims often say the media regularly link Islam and terrorism but rarely report when Muslims denounce acts of Islamist violence. There is some truth in this complaint, especially since Islam does not have central authorities, such as a pope, who can claim to speak in the name of all believers. Individual protests from small groups get lost in the flood of news. Some publications are also simply unwilling to print news that goes against their view of Islam as a violent religion, so it makes no difference there how many such protests are reported. They won’t believe them anyway.
This refusal to bury the Mumbai attackers is different. It is an original and bold protest against Islamist violence by religious authorities who would normally make sure any Muslim got a proper burial. “This is symbolically very important,” Mustafa Akyol, a columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News in Istanbul and an active Muslim blogger. “I’ve heard of imams declining to lead a prayer for the deceased because he was an outright atheist, but never of people being denied burial.”
This raises a few questions about religion and politics. Is it proper to deny a religious burial to the dead because they were extremists? Should religious leaders use the dead to make a political point?
(Photo: Mumbai Muslim leaders meet to denounce Islamist attacks, 2 Dec 2008/Punit Paranjpe)
Given the way Muslim protests against Islamist violence do not seem to attract much attention, is this a proper way for the religious authorities to dramatise their stand? And, as asked above, did you see this in your local newspaper? If not, do you think it should have been there?
By the way, this decision did not come out of the blue. Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, one of India’s leading Islamic groups, endorsed a fatwa against terrorism in early November. More than 6,000 clerics signed the edict, which follows a similar one issued in February by India’s top Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom Deoband.