Yesterday was Ashura. It marks the death of Hussain in Karbala.

I still have nightmares of this yearly event, where people take to the street and self-flagellate. It’s a blood fest and children are often involved.

Obviously whilst people have a right to religion and to observe religious ceremonies, however stupid, the violent and inhuman aspects of Ashura should be prohibited.

And before you start shouting ‘totalitarianism’, think again. Have you ever seen it, particularly when children and even babies are involved? A lot of children are injured and some die as a result. It’s downright disgusting and abhorrent.

Some say all this self-flagellation creates a ‘backward and negative image’ of Shi’ism. Well, if the shoe fits…

Here’s some more photos if you are still not convinced.



  1. This appears to be a typical situation where masses gather to view the antics of a few fanatical lunatics. It makes one wonder whether these same crazies would practice their beliefs behind closed doors. As for the children, I tend to believe they are only following the ways of their parents and want their share of the lime light. I’ve see young children join their parents, as their eyes roll back, they fall on the floor and begin writhing as spirits supposedly enter them. Children are great mimics, especially when they seek attention. Can you imagine a parent’s pride and the praise they would lavish on their offspring?

  2. The BBC joined in the fun. In any other situation the sight of a small child physically abusing himself to the enjoyment of gathered adults would be deplored. But relativised as an act of religious devotion and all is apparently fine and dandy. Take a look at the picture here:

    The BBC’s reaction? Caption reads: “Shia Muslims have been celebrating their festivals more confidently here in recent years, says the BBC’s Quentin Sommerville in Kabul.”

  3. Last year, before I left out of Iraq my shop wanted me to do a story on Ashura. I didn’t like the fact, but I wrote the story anyway and got it published in our newsletter.

    The more I learned about it, the more I despised it. The fact that it was a man whose idea of addressing grievances was to take his family and 72 of his followers and declare open warfare on a military force that actively wanted him dead. The fact that his actions led to the rift in islam known as Sunni and Shi’a, which has caused so much bloodshed ever since. The fact that people remember this man not by struggling against corruption, as he did, but instead cutting themselves and beating their backs with chains.

    The only reasonable part of the process was the man I interviewed about it, who said that the meaning (remembering Hussayn standing against the Umayyad Caliphate) was always lost in the needless bloodletting, and that people can revere without beating/cutting themselves. He struck me as the moderate muslim that people speak of (calm, sees women as humans and not property, keeps his religion personal, etc.), and not the ‘moderate’ muslim that one sees in Saudi Arabia or Dubai, condeming terrorists while strangling the freedom of anyone who is not a muslim man.

    That, and Muharram has nothing on Ramadan when it comes to the food.

  4. Have none of these guys heard of blood-borne diseases? There have got to be clusters of hepatitis related to such activities.

  5. Obviously while it should be illegal for children to participate banning it outright makes little sense, if adult bondage models can get the shit whipped out of them on camera so can adult Muslims, anti-child abuse legislature is the best solution.

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