Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dignity and death. Is there is difference between burying a dead man and a dead terrorist?

The media in America was all abuzz with strong views on the plight of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body. (Ref LA Times)

At the outset, one must start by saying that the act of terror committed by Tsarnaev was unconscionable.  And one might also go as far as suggesting that his untimely death was a consequence of his actions; as you sow, so you reap if you will.

One can also argue that his death provides a sense of closure, at least to him and his family. If closure were even the right word to use, especially since the families of the three killed in Boston and more than 140 victims hurt in Boston Marathon bombing will continue to question the senseless of this all.  But that is not the issue here.

At the heart is the question if an accused terror suspect killed during a manhunt can and should be buried in this land. Remember, Tsarnaev has not been tried or sentenced by a court of law but nevertheless strong evidence points to his culpability in the crime.

  • Murder suspects and criminals of all stripes, even those die in jail or die at the hands of jailors are routinely buried, many in a low-key manner. Massachusetts Funeral Directors Assn. spokesman David Walkinshaw was quoted saying "If you look back, historically, to cases of mass murderers and things of the like, usually after the death of the person involved, the media coverage of the person goes away … and the body is usually taken care of by the state or the next of kin, but it’s usually done very quietly” said Walkinshaw, noting that cremation is a common route in such cases.
  • Islamic angle:   Cremation is typically disfavored in Islamic burial customs. Tamerlan Tsarnaev happened to be a Muslim. There again, one might argue that criminals or suspected criminals who happened to be Muslim have also been buried on American soil.
  • Foreign angle: American legal system and  the public favors bringing criminals and terrorists to justice, in American courts where possible. For example, suspects of the infamous 9/11 terror attack are being tried New York. What happens if/when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York happen to die? Will there again be a debate around returning their “bodies” to their native lands?

I guess there are no simple questions or answers here. However, passion in the heat of the moment should not overrule basic human sensibilities. Burying the dead is a basic human act.
Surely we can show we are more dignified towards the dead than those who plot against us. This is an opportunity for Americans to stand up and show we are better than terrorists!

Other links
  • Officials pass the buck on burying Tamerlan Tsarnaev - LA Times
  • Marathon Suspect’s Body Is Ready for Burial. The Question Remains: Where?  NY Times blog
  • Where do we put Tamerlan Tsarnaev? - Washington Post blog

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