In the past, I’ve had a hard time dealing with open caskets at calling hours. It’s one thing to hear the news that a friend or family member has died, but it’s a completely different experience to actually come face to face with a pale, dead body. I was at some calling hours this past summer and as I sat in line to pay my respects for my friend’s loss, I could tell that everyone around me was anxious and uncomfortable with what they were about to see. This was not the case however, for some very odd calling hours Saturday in Misrata, Libya.
The calling hours were held for Muammar Gaddafi two days after his death on Thursday. As you can probably imagine, the massive crowds that waited all day to see Gaddafi’s body were not there to pay respects, but to confirm that he was actually dead. I don’t blame them since the people of Libya have been lied to throughout Gaddafi’s entire ruling. They wanted confirmation that the man who had oppressed Libyans for more than 40 years was actually dead. Even the videos of Gaddafi dying on the Internet were not enough proof for some skeptical Libyans.
In an Al Jazeera news video, some said they traveled all the way to Misrata in order to finally see the man behind the curtain, claiming, “It was impossible to see him [Gaddafi] or come to the places where he lived.”
The mood at Gaddafi’s calling hours was not what he would have hoped for but definitely what he deserved. There were obviously no flowers and his body lay on a mattress in a refrigeration unit along with his son’s and the former Defense Minister’s bodies as well. People were waiting outside the compound in excitement as if they were about to board a new roller coaster. The only difference was that little kids were in the line to see Gaddafi’s corpse.
In the video, Libyans were asked if they thought it was ghoulish to wait in a line to see an unprepared, rotting dead body. One Libyan man answered that “after what this guy has done to us and the Libyan people, nothing is ghoulish you do to him.” He later said that he is surprised the people of Libya are treating his body so humanely and have not cut him to pieces yet. It does not justify how Gaddafi treated his people for four decades, but I think it’s a great punishment having all of your citizen’s come face to face with you in such a humiliating and pathetic form.
This is not normal in Muslim nations because under Islamic tradition, a body is supposed to be buried quickly after passing. This brings up the question of what is to be done with the body now that this much time has passed. Some of the Libyans figure the body will be buried in a traditional Islamic manner on Tuesday, after all of the legal procedures have passed. I found it surprising that some were actually concerned about when he and his son would be buried, which goes to show how deeply religious these people really are. I don’t think he is worth the time or respect to even bury. Give his body to the people and let them humiliate his legacy further more. Make an example out of Muammar Gaddafi and reinforce the fact that a leader is only as strong as his supporters.