How and where should attackers be buried? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.08.2016
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How and where should attackers be buried?

Bavaria is facing a tough question: Where and how should the Ansbach and Würzburg attackers be buried? The Central Committee of Muslims in Germany says an Islamic burial is not obligatory.

Do people that brutally murder others for political reasons have the right to a dignified burial? How should suicide attackers be buried? What should be done with their bodies?

The question of how to deal with the burial of Islamic attackers is difficult - and now Germany, too, is being confronted with it. Specifically, the issue of what to do with the Ansbach and Würzburg attackers. In mid-June, a 17-year-old that released a video pledging his allegiance to the terror organization "Islamic State" (IS) used an axe and a knife to attack passengers on a regional train near Würzburg. Some of those people, including members of a family from Hong Kong, sustained life-threatening injuries. Ultimately, police shot the attacker dead. A few days later, an Islamic suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance area of a music festival in Ansbach, injuring several people.

The bodies of both attackers have yet to be released by state prosecutors. A speaker from the Würzburg District Office told DW that it remains unclear who is responsible for the burials of the two. Several unanswered questions remain: How should attackers be buried, and who is responsible for covering the cost thereof? Where should they be buried? In a Muslim cemetery, or somewhere else? Anonymously, or with names?

Prosecutors responsible for the case say that people claiming to be relatives of the 17-year-old have submitted a request at the German embassy in Kabul for the body to be returned to Afghanistan. Yet it is still unclear whether the 17-year-old actually even fled from Afghanistan.

Islamic burial not obligatory

From a theological standpoint imams are not obliged to participate in burials. Thus Muslims need not necessarily be laid to rest in an Islamic cemetery. So far, the Islamic community in Bavaria has not been asked to bury the suicide attackers. Should that happen, it will no doubt spark controversy. Mohamed Abu El Qomsan, the Bavarian representative of the Central Committee of Muslims in Germany, made his opinion very clear when addressing the DPA press agency: No burial in an Islamic cemetery, and no Islamic ceremony for the attackers.

France has already dealt with the sad reality of how delicate the issue of burying jihadists is. Recently, every single Islamic congregation in the country refused to bury the two Islamist attackers that killed a Catholic priest in Normandy on July 26. One of the Paris attackers that took part in the November 13, 2015 massacre at the Bataclan concert hall was buried anonymously in his hometown. The two brothers that killed 12 employees at the satire magazine "Charlie Hebdo" in early 2015 were also buried anonymously.

Anonymous graves

The difficult question of how to bury people that have caused others such incomprehensible suffering is not just one that is posed by Islamic attackers. The 18-year-old Munich attacker, David S., must also be buried. In mid-July he killed nine people at a shopping mall in Munich and then eventually killed himself. His parents did not take part in a memorial ceremony for the victims, but they, too, are mourners - despite the fact that their son did such terrible things to others.

Anonymes Grab mit einer Nummer

Most of the attackers have been burried anonymously

Psychologists say: It is also important for the relatives of attackers to be able to make a dignified farewell. Sadly, Germany already has experience in dealing with the graves of the perpetrators of mass-killings. Robert S., who killed 16 people at his school in Erfurt before killing himself in attack that took place in 2002, was buried anonymously - location unknown. According to media reports, 17-year-old Tim K., who killed 15 schoolmates before killing himself in a 2009 attack in Winnenden in Baden Württemberg, was buried in a remote forest cemetery. It is also not known where the cemetery is, and his parents buried him anonymously out of fear that people would vandalize his grave.

No pilgrimage sites for fanatics

There is also the fear that the graves of mass-shooters or terrorists could become pilgrimage sites for other fanatics. Possible cult sites for copycats that want to honor their role models.

That was the case surrounding the question of where to bury Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, two right-wing terrorists from the National Socialist Underground (NSU). The duo was responsible for the deaths of ten people. Böhnhardt was supposedly buried in a common grave at a cemetery in Jena - anonymously, so that it could not become a shrine for other NSU supporters.

Das Grab des Hitler-Stellvertreters Rudolf Hess

Neo-Nazis regularly lay wreaths at the grave of Hitler's deputy Rudolph Hess

The city of Jena feared that it might suffer the same fate as Wunsiedel in Upper Franconia. For years, neo-Nazis made pilgrimages to the city's cemetery to venerate Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Heß, who was buried there. They came year after year, laying wreaths and marching through the streets chanting right-wing slogans. Meanwhile the grave has been removed.

'Cemetery of Traitors'

The question of a dignified final resting place is currently being debated in Turkey as well. One city council recently installed a sign reading "Cemetery of Traitors" at the entrance of a cemetery where people killed during the failed coup attempt had been buried. Following massive criticism the sign was later removed. Religious authorities ordered it taken down out of respect for the families of the dead rebels.

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