The 6-year-old boy screamed and shook his head to avoid the razor blade. But his father held him firmly as Hajj Khodor parted the boy’s black hair and sliced his forehead three times with the blade.
Ali Madani’s cries became more violent as blood gushed from the wound, covering his small, terrified face.
His father and a few other men, waving daggers, broke into a religious chant, recalling how the 7th-century Shiite Muslim saint, Imam Hussein, was decapitated, his head placed on a lance.
In marking the holiest day of Ashura, some Shiites believe children should learn at an early age about Hussein’s suffering, which is at the heart of their faith.
Lebanon’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, has banned bloodletting during Ashura, even for adults.
Clerics in mainly Shiite Iran forbid it as well, saying the practice is un-Islamic because it harms the body.
But traditions die hard, especially in a rite as fervent and emotional as Ashura, marked Tuesday by Shiites across the Islamic world.
Niiiice. This is the kind of thing that can really get people to join a religion, eh?
Its a well known ritual practiced in that part of the world, hardly news. I’ve been seeing the images of the Hezbollah slapping their heads with blood running down their faces since the war in the eighties put that region on television.
Isn’t it in Mexico where they get a bit carried away at Easter and volunteer to be crucified, nails through palms and all? Or the Thai Kavadis where they ram long bits of metal through face and skin. Or firewalking, and many other rites of manhood? Shia’s are hardly alone in the world when it comes to hurting yourself in order to prove something.
I hope those wackos at Jesus Camp aren’t watching.
Funny thing is that I saw some old, very catholic guy on TV decrying that some shia where doing it (sans swords nor whips, just thumping their chest with the bare hads) in his street. I bet that when a bunch of guys in Easter walk barefooted for hours through the same streets, donning a thorny crown and dragging a huge cross and some 30 feet of chains that is just “tradition”
I’m all upholding local traditions and rites of all cultures, whether religion is part of it or not.
Just because we in the west don’t practice many rites which some might find offensive anymore doesn’t mean we should wipe them out globally, just in case something offends a pampered westerners sensibility.
Taking the developmental levels of individual countries into account, the Christian and Islamic religions are each pretty equally endowed with their extremists and crazies. The Philippines and Lebanon are pretty much equal in terms of the Human Development Index. Moving into sub-saharan Africa, you get horrendous situations like Nigeria where Sharia law means raped women get stoned to death. Then on the other hand you have Rwanda, where Muslims saved Christian Hutus and Tutsis while Christian priests rounded up those of either side and burned them in their own churches.