Funeral Goes Ahead Without the Corpse
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
ZARQA, Jordan – One thing was missing from the traditional Islamic funeral being prepared at the Zarqawi family home yesterday: the body.
A large mourning tent was being erected to provide shade outside the house at 13 Ramzi St., in Zarqa, the slightly rundown Jordanian town from which Abu Musab al-Zarqawi took his nom de guerre.
As a straw carpet was laid on the dusty ground, line after line of white plastic chairs was lined up for the many male mourners expected to attend. Women will gather separately, inside the house. It is normal for the body to be paraded to the mosque for prayers, but mourners in Ramzi Street will have to make do with television images of Zarqawi’s corpse released by the American authorities.
“His body will not be coming back to Zarqa,” a member of the secret police said, before saying it was not safe for Western journalists to approach the funeral preparations. Children had stoned reporters’ cars and relatives of Zarqawi made it clear that representatives of foreign press were not welcome.
Zarqawi’s elder brother, Fadil al-Khalayleh, also told a Palestinian Arab journalist to go away, accusing him of associating with a nonbeliever.
“May God have mercy on my brother,” he said. “He is a martyr and is in heaven. You must go; you are not safe.”
Zarqawi’s funeral underscored the paradox of a modern Arab state such as Jordan. While its government may be pro-Western, a terrorist who fights the West in the name of Islam stirs local passion.
In Zarqa, people seemed willing to overlook that Zarqawi’s terrorism had claimed innocent Muslim lives, including 60 Jordanians killed last November in a triple bombing of hotels in Amman. Dozens of his relatives made a public statement disowning him after those bombings, but all that seemed to have been forgotten after his death.
“A lot of people will attend the funeral here because they want to show their support for those who stand against the nonbelievers,” Marwan Yusef, 27, a grocer, said. “Only God knows who was responsible for the bombing attacks in Amman, but I know that Zarqawi has become a martyr because he was killed by the Americans.”
A Palestinian Arab who lost his home when Israel was created, Fendi Hawokshe, said: “Many people are unhappy today because they looked on him as a hero.”