| Iraqis discuss the week’s events at the century-old Shah Bandar cafe in Baghdad. (AFP)
Dubai, July 26 (Reuters): Televised images of the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons shocked many Arabs today, who said it was un-Islamic to exhibit corpses, however much the brothers were loathed.
Arab and international networks showed the bodies identified as Uday and Qusay, laid out at the makeshift airport morgue, their faces partly rebuilt to repair wounds. “Although Uday and Qusay are criminals, displaying their corpses like this is disgusting and repulsive. America claims it is civilised but is behaving like a thug,” Saudi civil servant Saad Brikan, 42, said in Riyadh.
Another civil servant Hasan Hammoud, 35, said: “America always spoils its own image by doing something like this. What is the advantage of showing these bodies' Didn’t they think about the humanitarian aspect' About their mother and the rest of their family when they see these images'”
The brothers died on Tuesday after US forces lay siege to the villa in northern Iraq where they were hiding.
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he ordered their bodies to be shown to convince frightened Iraqis that Saddam’s reign was truly over.
But prominent Saudi cleric Mohsen al-Awajy said: “This has been a dirty war from the beginning and it is difficult for us to find any morals or dignity in the middle of this.
“The Americans want to show the Iraqis that they are achieving their goals... There was no need to show the bodies.”
He said while under Islam the bodies should be treated with sanctity, Iraqis would not forget that Uday and Qusay had committed vicious crimes against them. “We shouldn’t forget the pain of the Iraqis. These are just two casualties, and it would be better if their graves were kept secret, otherwise the Iraqis will attack their graves.”
Mohammad Emara, an Egyptian Islamist scholar, told al Jazeera television that displaying the bodies publicly was against Shariat law.
“Under Islamic law this is rejected. America wanted to boost the morale of its soldiers so it resorted to this illegal act which is denounced by all religions.
“America said during its war on Iraq that displaying pictures of its soldiers who were alive was against the Geneva convention so what about pictures showing disfigured bodies'”
He was referring to US soldiers held captive during the war.
A US military official said “facial reconstruction” had been carried out, particularly to the elder son Uday whose face had been more disfigured by his wounds. The retouching was intended to make them more readily identifiable.
In Kuwait, Saddam’s arch-enemy over Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of the tiny Gulf state, some people found the video did help convince them the two brothers were dead.
“I’m not sure about Uday but Qusay’s pictures were very clear. I’m happy they are dead and that will make it easier for the Americans to restore stability to the country,” said Abdullah al-Shimari, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti.
“The videos were very clear and even independent international reporters who have seen the bodies have confirmed it was them. People who have objected to showing the pictures are loyal to the Iraqi regime,” said Mohammed al-Rashidi, a 27-year-old Kuwaiti.
But Egyptian analyst Diaa Rashwan said Washington had an uphill battle in winning credibility among Arabs.
“American credibility has been questioned for a long time in the Arab world, as well as other parts of the world. This is making a lot of Arabs doubt the authenticity of what the photos or the video show,” Rashwan said.
US officials believe the deaths of Saddam’s sons will help staunch attacks on US troops which they blame on his sympathisers and which have already claimed 44 lives.
But Iraqi analysts warn other groups with no loyalty to Saddam may be behind some of the attacks, including Islamic militants and nationalists who resent the takeover of their oil-rich country.
Uday double relieved
A former double of Uday Hussein said he was relieved at the news of his erstwhile boss’ death and felt “free at last” in an interview to be published in the German Sunday paper Welt am Sonntag.
“For the first time I feel really free,” declared Latif Yahia, who was Uday’s double for five years before fleeing to Manchester, in northern England, after the Gulf war in 1991.
He said that when he had heard that Uday and his brother Qusay had been killed, “I called my wife to tell her to put champagne on ice to celebrate.”