Many people woke up today to learn that Osama bin Laden was “sleeping with the fishes”.
After ten years of hunting down “the world’s most wanted man,” the US has reportedly killed and buried Osama bin Laden. One of the most intriguing elements of the breaking news is that the terrorist leader was buried at sea within hours of being shot in the head by US forces. According to the Islamic tradition, it is important that a body be buried as soon as possible after death. A US official was quoted in the Guardian explaining the reasoning behind the hasty sea burial: “Finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world’s most wanted terrorist would have been difficult.”
If your students are open to discussing this news, there are a number of ways to approach it. You could discuss this article from the Guardian (read it together or summarize the main points) and have a group or pair discussion. You may want to use the “sea burial” as your main topic, and only touch briefly on the news about Osama bin Laden. We created a Discussion Starter lesson on Burial Alternatives (it mentions Bin Laden) to help you ease into this topic. Check out the list of links below to find other authentic materials to help spark a a related discussion. Here are some questions you can start with:
1. Did you believe that Osama bin Laden was really killed or did you have doubts? (Will you wait for the DNA evidence before you believe it?)
2. Were you surprised to hear that the US had finally caught Bin Laden? Were you surprised to hear he was found in Pakistan?
2. Do you think that burying Bin Laden at sea was appropriate?
3. What other reasons might the US have for burying Bin Laden so hastily?
4. What burial traditions are common in your culture or country?
5. Would you want to be buried at sea? Why or why not?
Related on the web:
The Guardian: It took years to find him, but just minutes to kill him
About.com: Islamic Funerals
Urban Dictionary: Muslim Burial
CNN: Timeline: Osama bin Laden, over the years
Wikipedia: Burial at Sea (“Sleeping with the Fishes”)
Socyberty: Under the Sea or Floating in Space: Other options for Burial
While our Something to Talk About suggestions are useful for getting your students involved in a group or pair discussion, the topics, articles, and videos can also be used if you are looking for something for your students to blog/Skype/or write an opinion essay about. When a famous person dies, it is sometimes interesting to work together as a class to collect information and write an obituary. Each pair or small group can be responsible for a different aspect of the deceased person’s life.
How did you tackle this topic in class? Please share your ideas and resources in the comments below.