Ashoura Day: Get Bloody People!
March 2, 2004 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Ashoura Day
(warning, the image in the link is graphic and disturbing and is from Yahoo News, sorry about the lameness of the source) Ashoura Day is a Shiite Muslim holiday that commemorates the 7th century death of Saint Imam Hussein.
Its "celebrated" by cutting oneself or others with swords and knives and is primarily aimed at children though many adults get into it as well. I'm all for cultural tolerance but this strikes me as pretty blatant child abuse.
For an in depth examination of what the Ashoura commemoration means, check out The Connotations of Ashoura.
posted by fenriq (69 comments total)
 
Apparently you forgot about something called 'circumcision'
posted by angry modem at 4:18 PM on March 2, 2004


I predict that this thread will turn into an even-handed and insightful round-table-sort-of debate on religion and its roles in every day life and all of us will learn from it and share as a community and go into the streets and feel gorgeous and full of wisdom and knowledge. Hallelujah.
posted by xmutex at 4:26 PM on March 2, 2004


As an addendum: I want to hurt that man very, very badly.
posted by xmutex at 4:27 PM on March 2, 2004


I all for stabbing kids but not in any religeous context,
posted by Elim at 4:30 PM on March 2, 2004


What angry modem said.
posted by spazzm at 4:31 PM on March 2, 2004


What Elim said.
posted by DyRE at 4:33 PM on March 2, 2004


That was one dang bloody kid! I wonder if the parent got permission to cut. Is it all right if the kid gives permission? Son, can I cut you? Yes, daddy, but only if you buy me a Sony PlayStation.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:35 PM on March 2, 2004


I prefer my religious rituals as metaphors. You know, like how catholics drink "blood" and eat "the body of christ" but it's really just a shot of bad wine and a stale cracker?

Why can't they come up with a figurative version of this that maybe symbolizes the experience (a pinata filled with red wine?) without having to actually cut people and bleed.

Religion, schmeligion, it looks disgusting, it's brutal, and it's a dangerous ritual.
posted by mathowie at 4:45 PM on March 2, 2004


I wonder if Fox is optioning the broadcast rights?
posted by Elim at 4:48 PM on March 2, 2004


I agree with mathowie.

angry modem: Apparently you forgot about something called 'circumcision'

Aren't they both barbaric?
posted by subgenius at 4:49 PM on March 2, 2004


what mathowie said. If you must have blood, even a prick on the finger from a needle or something would make the point.
posted by amberglow at 4:49 PM on March 2, 2004


Aren't they both barbaric?

yes.
posted by angry modem at 4:52 PM on March 2, 2004


"Many Western child rearing practices would be viewed as equally abusive or neglectful by these same groups. Practices such as isolating children in beds or rooms of their own at night, making children wait for food when they are hungry, forcing young children to sit in a classroom all day, or allowing infants to "cry themselves out" would seem bizarre, exotic, and damaging as their behaviors seem to us." Cultural Perspectives on Child Rearing

It's the best I could find to make my point, and my English is not good enough today :)
posted by papalotl at 4:55 PM on March 2, 2004


um, catholicism has had similar rituals. The flagellants in medieval times, for instance.
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:57 PM on March 2, 2004


Before we start critizing how other cultures treat their children, perhaps we should take the mote from our own eye?
posted by dejah420 at 4:58 PM on March 2, 2004


Wow! feel sorry for the barber that comes close to this kid.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:59 PM on March 2, 2004


Before everyone gets all hysterical, can anyone provide sources as to how the cutting is done and what the ritual entails?

Maybe its just me but the kid in the picture looks pretty calm and the blood on his face has the appearance of being smeared on.
posted by vacapinta at 5:06 PM on March 2, 2004


If you must have blood, even a prick on the finger from a needle or something would make the point.

No, it wouldn't. Not unless that pinprick is accompanied by some kind of understanding and consent on the part of the child.
posted by 327.ca at 5:09 PM on March 2, 2004


Before we start critizing how other cultures treat their children, perhaps we should take the mote from our own eye?

Why? I think I'm capable of pointing to lots of lots of different practices and saying, "That's wrong," without losing the ability or perspective to make things better around me. I might have a mote in my eye, but that doesn't make me blind.

Now, in the grand scheme of things this is probably a lot less oppressive than many other religious and cultural tenents, but I try to take my disapprobation one thread at a time.
posted by subgenius at 5:15 PM on March 2, 2004


No, it wouldn't. Not unless that pinprick is accompanied by some kind of understanding and consent on the part of the child.
Religious rituals don't require or demand understanding and/or consent, especially when you're a kid. I think this is about feeling/sharing the pain of the martyr--there are many less bloody and not as painful ways to do that than slicing kids with swords. (Hell, I get paper cuts all the time--that would work too.)
posted by amberglow at 5:25 PM on March 2, 2004


The father does seem quite caring, the child a bit bemused, and the blood rather peaceful. OTOH, what about poor Monsieur Father Aristide?
posted by lometogo at 5:26 PM on March 2, 2004


Well, that kid can't be suffering to much, since he's not crying. I mean seriously, look at him. Kids that young bawl their eyes if they fall down some steps, but he's calmly sucking his thumb with his eyes wide open.

But then again, maybe he's just done crying. Or maybe it's smeared on, or maybe we should realize this is only one example.

Oh well, whatever.
posted by delmoi at 5:33 PM on March 2, 2004


mote from our own eye?

A new pet peeve of mine: the quote is something along the lines of: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" So it's beam in thine own eye, mote in thine brother's. The implication being that the person behaving hypocritically has some flaw that's radically larger than the flaw which they are criticizing. I keep hearing "mote in your own eye" or "mote in our own eye", though.

Wow, that sure is nitpicky...

As an aside, since I was a child, I've wondered what it would look like to have someone walking around with a big beam of wood sticking out of their eye. Ouch!
posted by mr_roboto at 5:51 PM on March 2, 2004


Not to attack or defend the practice, but remember that the scalp and forehead are richly vascular, so a very tiny cut will absolutely gush with blood.
posted by boredomjockey at 6:03 PM on March 2, 2004


er, a 'blog which has had a certain rivalry with mefi and a rep for anti-muslim commenting has a long thread on this, which I found illuminating...
posted by dash_slot- at 6:09 PM on March 2, 2004


Though Ashura is celebrated by all Shiites, the child-cutting appears to be peculiar to South Lebanon (where the picture comes from) and has been condemned there by Shia leaders - see this article from last year

The custom of bloodletting itself even for adults has come under attack by Shia leaders elsewhere. It certainly is a nasty custom to inflict on children but hopefully it's one on the way out.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:09 PM on March 2, 2004


Funny how few of these barbaric rituals are secular in origin...

Religious rituals don't require or demand understanding and/or consent

That's just sick, amberglow, and even more offensive than cutting children with blades.
posted by rushmc at 6:36 PM on March 2, 2004


The father does seem quite caring, the child a bit bemused, and the blood rather peaceful. OTOH, what about poor Monsieur Father Aristide?

Ok, I really busted out laughing at that one. After all of the verious nicknames assigned to this strange blue discussion board, I think someone has finally coined the perfect phrase ...

MeFi: The Land of Peaceful Blood.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:37 PM on March 2, 2004


Pardon me for chuckling, but ashoura just looks soo much like an engrish cuss-word.
posted by F Mackenzie at 7:01 PM on March 2, 2004


That's just sick, amberglow, and even more offensive than cutting children with blades.
Parents own their kids, and do worse things than this in the name of all sorts of things...I think this is gross and barbaric and potentially harmful to the kid, but also trust that the parents love their kids enough not to really hurt them. (and hey, my parents circumcised me when I was 8 days old--I not going to condemn them for a little blood.) This is a shared ritual--the kids and the fathers do it, and obviously important to them.
posted by amberglow at 7:20 PM on March 2, 2004


I prefer my religious rituals as metaphors. You know, like how catholics drink "blood" and eat "the body of christ" but it's really just a shot of bad wine and a stale cracker?

uh, "no it's not"
posted by taumeson at 7:24 PM on March 2, 2004


er, a 'blog which has had a certain rivalry with mefi and a rep for anti-muslim commenting has a long thread on this, which I found illuminating...

Yep, that's why I think it's illuminating that those of us who have been critical of this practice are not critical of the religion itself or the race of those who may practice it -- unlike blogthatshallnotbenamed -- and are, as far as I can tell, willing to be equally critical of beliefs that are a little bit closer to home.
posted by subgenius at 7:55 PM on March 2, 2004


The argument that this is the same as circumcision is faulty. Circumcisions are done once, this is an annual event.

The questions about the calm look in the child's eyes could be put down to any number of things, such as some pre-ritual wine to soften the cut, some hashish smoke or whatever.

Check out Google Images: Ashoura to see some not so calm kids and some seriously bloody men.

Transubstantiation is an interesting concept but come on now, its not the body or blood of Christ. You may accept it as the body and blood of Christ but deep down, you know its a wafer and some cheap wine. Faith alone does not alter reality. And the explanation is just a wee bit hokey, it looks like a cracker, smells like a cracker and tastes like a cracker and is, in all respects, a cracker but its really the flesh of Jesus Christ? How convenient, just like you can't ever know about heaven until after you've died.
posted by fenriq at 8:31 PM on March 2, 2004


Fenriq, I think you're mssing the point of transubstantiation - it's requires a suspension of disbelief. Not even a suspention, but a disregarding of disbelief. If you don't accept that it is Christ 100% (not to say I do), you're not getting it.
posted by ascullion at 8:43 PM on March 2, 2004


"As he called it, the Sun Dance was the granddaddy of all Indian ceremonies. He was right. Wi-Wanyang-Wacipi, the Sun Dance, is the most awe-inspiring of our rituals, occurring every year at the height og summer. In 1883 the government and the missionaries outlawed the dance for being 'barbaric, superstitious, and preventing the Indians from becoming civilized.' The hostility of the Christian churches to the Sun Dance was not very logical. After all, they worship Christ because he suffered for the people, and a similar religious concept lies behind the Sun Dance, where the participants pierce their flesh with skewers to help someone dear to them. The main difference, as Lame Deer used to say, is that Christians are content to let Jesus do all the suffering for them whereas Indians give of their own flesh, year after year, to help others. The missionaries never saw this side of the picture, or maybe they saw it only too well and fought the Sun Dance because it competed with their own Sun Dance pole - the Cross. At any rate, for half a century Indians could go to jail for sun-dancing or for participating in any kind of tribal ceremony. ... [A] handful of medicine men and elders kept the dance alive, passin on ... the knowledge of how to perform this ceremony, down to the smallest detail. Nothing was lost."
...
"I wanted to be part of this, I wanted to feel it, spiritually and in my flesh. It was real compared to what I had known, not a hand-me-down belied but a personal re-awakening which stirred a remembrance deep inside me. So I made a vow to sun-dance for four years..."
...
"I pierced too, together with many other women. One of Leonard's sisters pierced from two spots above her collar bone. Leonard and Rod Skenandore pierced me with two pins through my arms. I did not feel any pain because I was in the power. I was looking into the clouds, into the sun. Brightness filled my mind. The sun seemed to speak, 'I am the Eye of Life. I am the Soul of the Eye. I am the Life Giver!' In the unbearable brightness, in the clouds, I saw people. I could see those who had died. ... I could hear the spirits speaking to me through the eagle-bone whistles. I heard no sound but the shrill cry of the eagle bones. I felt nothing and, at the same time, everything. It was at that moment that I, a white-educated half-blood, became wholly Indian. I experienced a great rush of happiness. I heard a cry coming from my lips:

Ho Uway Tinkte.
A Voice I will send.
Throughout the Universe,
Maka Sitomniye,
My Voice you shall hear:
I will live!"

-Mary Crow Dog, "Lakota Woman" excerpted from chapter 16. (Bold-face inserted by me)

The Lakota/ Sioux Sun Dance consists of piercing one's flesh with skewers which are attached to a pole or tree in the middle of the great circle. By one method or another, depending on the severity of pain desired, the dancer then tears him- or herself free from the pole. The pieces of severed flesh are then collected and put in a medicine bag, to act as a physical reminder of the sacrifice performed. Children as young as ten or eleven undergo piercings willingly (it's an opt-in system), and then show off their scars to each other afterwards.

I personally think it's a beautiful ritual. Those who want to sit high on their mountains of science and say that the religious experience is all fake, some adrenaline induced frenzy, are free to do so. But you'll miss the point completely. This is partly a rite of initiation, as the passage shows, and I think it brings a heroic aspect to the life of the dancer. Our Western world, so filled with fear, seeks to strip the danger and pain from life, and thereby misses out on first-hand heroic experience, opting instead to live such experiences at a safe second-hand, through Jesus or a movie screen. Thus, the Sun Dance, though centered on physical pain, is a great psychological boon, making the individual stronger, and also cementing the community. Those who are so afraid of blood but live in broken loneliness and self-denial have no right to call this practice barbaric.

Not all blood is bad.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:06 PM on March 2, 2004


>Circumcisions are done once, this is an annual event.

Oh please, its also permanent. Not to mention its done without anaesthesia. Its a barbaric religious custom, just because its done by "your people" doesn't suddenly make it right. Its this bullshit cultural relativism that keeps the man from the sword from wondering why people think what he's doing is odd.
posted by skallas at 10:25 PM on March 2, 2004


ascullion, no I completely understand the leap of faith required to go beyond the suspension of disbelief. I just don't buy it and won't ever. And I have a hard time believing that any truly rational and reasonable person can. It goes back to many philosophical arguments that I can't even begin to scratch here but some of the names are Kierkegaard, Berkeley and Pascal.

skallas, regardless of how you feel about circumcision, it is a one time deal, usually done in my particular culture within a few days of birth. In some African cultures its a right a passage into manhood and taken very seriously.

I never said that a circumcision is right or wrong, I said its a one time event. This blood letting with a sword isn't on an infant, its on a child who's quite aware of what's going on and is terrified by it. Take a look at some of the pictures, these kids are scared, in pain and not enjoying the "religiousosity" of it all.

Bullshit cultural relativism has very little to do with a man with a sword slicing his child. The man with the sword most likely doesn't even question the oddity of his actions, its been a part of his culture since his birth, his dad sliced his head every year, he slices his children's head every year. Not examining the action doesn't justify it or make it right. At the end of the day, you have children being bled for the commemoration of a slain saint.

To me, it looks barbaric, to most it looks barbaric yet to them it is a part of their culture and I can accept that and thank my good fortune to have been born to some freakin' athiests. In my world, intentionally harming people is wrong, for whatever purpose (with the exception of surgeries and the like). One person's barbarism is another person's cup of tea, neither right nor wrong but I am still fully entitled to cast my opinion about it, as are you.

Would anethesia make a difference in your condemnation of it? So if the kids being sliced are doped up then its okay too?

Kaibutsu, are you familiar with people who are covered from head to toe in tattoos and piercings? Do you wonder why? They become addicted to the body's natural reaction to an attack in the form of an ink filled needle or a jabbing bit of metal by flooding the blood stream with endorphins and other naturally produced altercants. The fact that young people buy in means that its codified into the culture and part of the process of living within that culture. Personally, the concept of people tearing skewers from their body is repugnant.

Those who are so afraid of blood but live in broken loneliness and self-denial have no right to call this practice barbaric..

Broken loneliness and self-denial? What are you talking about? That makes no sense given your argument. And, by the way, I have every right to call any damned thing I think of as barbaric or beautiful, its called an opinion and ours most obviously differ. Self mutiliation and ripping of flesh is grotesque to me, I'm happy for you that you think otherwise but don't ever mistake your opinions for my own. You are welcome to think its a pretty and wonderful and transcendant ritual. I am welcome to think its freakish and wrong.

But then, I think most traditional religious rituals are freakish and wrong.
posted by fenriq at 11:02 PM on March 2, 2004


Its "celebrated" by cutting oneself or others with swords and knives and is primarily aimed at children though many adults get into it as well. I'm all for cultural tolerance but this strikes me as pretty blatant child abuse.

Yes, we all want to throttle those parents, yes, it's child abuse - but we need to have a little bit of perspective here.

99% of Shi'as who celebrate this holiday do so without cutting themselves, and even for those who do, its primarily aimed at adult men - not children as you state above.

There are about 100 million Shi'a Muslims in the world today, but the only places where this type of bloody ritual can occur is in lawless parts of South Lebanon and Iraq. That is because everywhere the rule of law applies, it is against the law. The largest Shi'a-majority country, Iran, bans the practice, as do most Shi'a clergy and scholars throughout the Muslim world.

(Not that I'm shi'a, but nobody of that persuasion seems to be stepping up to the plate...)
posted by laz-e-boy at 11:47 PM on March 2, 2004


I have every right to call any damned thing I think of as barbaric or beautiful...

I'd like to begin by admiting poor word choice at the end of the post. Not that the paragraph you cited begins with a quite-decided upon turn of phrase affirming your right to disagree. (apparently ignored, given your question concerning pain addiction in our oh-so troubled youth)


What I'm trying to point out is that Western culture is built and raised on psychological pain mixed (liberally?) with personal derision. It's in the church that spread the culture far and wide, it's in the schools we send our children to, it's in the ads we are subjected to every day. I think our social rituals are, as you put it, freakish and wrong. Most advertising plays on our personal deficiencies, pointing out our weaknesses and telling us we need help to correct them. High school, as an initiation rite, is about having one's identity quashed in submission to bureaucracy, rigid social heirarchy, and a semi-fascist legal system. I'm sure we're all familiar with what the catholic church managed to do to sexuality during its first thousand years by this point.

All of this is supposedly for our own good, and we are subjected often unwillingly to it. To me, this psychological torture is grotesque. The Lakota ritual, unlike Ashoura, apparently, is completely voluntary and self-affirming. I'll take that over four years of public school any day. And I'll enjoy it while I'm at it.

So yeah, you are free to think the ritual 'wrong.' My question is why do you think it? Just a gut reaction, or have you something deeper to say?

Is physical pain always 'harmful,' and to be avoided? Is it wrong to inflict pain on yourself, voluntarily, or is it only wrong to inflict pain on others? What if that person has assented to the pain beforehand? Does that make body-piercing immoral? Are there circumstances where physical pain can create a psychological strength?

None of these are inhernetly 'religious' questions. While it is true that the Lakotas have many dispositions that you would term religious - belief in spirits not least among them - I don't think the benefits of the Sun Dance are at all supernatural, and I think Mary Crow-Dog's passage shows that she knows that. What she gets from the ritual isn't supernatural at all; she gets community solidarity and some radical self-affirmation. If you just focus on the blood and the physical reaction, you miss the whole point - this is about the experience.

Now, all that said, I'm not trying to derail the thread, but to present a contrasting 'bloody' ritual which I can talk about and defend, in order to show that these sorts of things aren't as inherently bad as all the anti-religious reactionaries would have us think. For what it's worth, I do think it is wrong to cut a young and unwilling child, but I'm not willing to throw out an entire class of ritual as 'barbaric' because of one bad seed. Instead, ban or fix the bad seed, and leave the rest to prosper.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:51 PM on March 2, 2004


Parents own their kids

I dispute that. Custodianship != ownership. Human beings cannot be owned.
posted by rushmc at 12:58 AM on March 3, 2004


Well, yeah, they can be, and have been, and are.

It's just that they shouldn't be.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:12 AM on March 3, 2004


Good god. What a bunch of noise over very little. Did no one here become "blood brother" with their best friend?

One of the bad things about the Internet is how stupid dying customs can be waved around as an example of how bad and evil and stupid some other culture is.

But, hey, gotta demonize the dark-skinned. Hate to let a little thing like, oh, common bloody sense stand in the way of a good hate-on. Let's get our war on!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:08 AM on March 3, 2004


<insert outrage here>

Yawn.

Everyone knows that children shouldn't be cut up by others as a prop in a religious ritual: they should be cutting themselves up alone in their rooms as a result of inner turmoil and self-loathing.

posted by Blue Stone at 3:00 AM on March 3, 2004


Kids aren't supposed to get mutilated like that! Instead, Jewish carpenters are.
posted by alumshubby at 4:42 AM on March 3, 2004


"They cut children, they have brown skin and we have color pictures... tell Rumsfeild to warm up the jets I feel an election campaign brewing!"
posted by DrDoberman at 4:49 AM on March 3, 2004


This rigidity is fairly scary - I mean a large part of becoming adult means being able to see beyond your own circumstance, your own cultural borders. All cultural traditions must have some sort of benefit, if you look at them from a genetic, or better yet, a memetic view. The same way we are horrified at a child bleeding, I've had family members from the old world horrified that parents are letting their children grow up too soft. And this supersensitivity towards anything visceral may not be as wonderful as we think. 5th graders 30 years ago could get in to a fist fight on the playground, and they would be disciplined, but the adults staring down their noses at them would know that this is an important part of growing up.. if the same fight happens on a schoolyard today, zero tolerance, expulsion, psychiatrists, etc..

Is the concept of cutting kids with swords creepy to me? completely. Does it serve some sort of positive purpose? probably. Do i have a right to pass judgement on this culture? surely not.
posted by re_verse at 6:22 AM on March 3, 2004


What a smug, stupid post. I'm sorry mathowie contributed to the thread instead of axing it. Hey, let's find the most repellent pictures we can to make fun of every religion/society/ethnic group in the world! Ashura is the most sacred day in Shi'a Islam; this is like finding a picture of somebody flagellating himself for Good Friday (with lots o' photogenic blood) and using it to scorn Easter and Christianity. I'd link to Ashura sites but I refuse to take this thread seriously enough to do so.

Also, what five fresh fish said. Gotta demonize those weird brown people across the sea. They're not like us -- no American has ever caused a child to bleed.
posted by languagehat at 8:45 AM on March 3, 2004


five fresh fish and languagehat are the only people injecting race into this: I guess they think it's okay to abuse brown babies.
posted by subgenius at 9:57 AM on March 3, 2004


Ashura is not about "abusing babies." It's about commemorating the death (self-sacrifice) of the Imam Husain in the 7th century. If that means nothing to you, you may have no problem mocking and trivializing it. If it were the greatest event in history to you, as it is to millions, you might see the problem. And yes, I think race is relevant here. If there were as many white American Shi'ites as there were brown Middle Eastern and subcontinental ones, I don't think their faith would be treated in this fashion. And I think at a time when hundreds of Shi'ites have been killed, on Ashura, by bigots in Iraq, this is a particularly inappropriate post. (Likely dumbass reaction: "Hey, they deserve it, they cut babies!") You might reflect on the fact that Shi'ites are the victims of discrimination and violence in most Islamic countries outside of Iran; this post is comparable to linking to a picture of a grinning black guy with a bloody knife and making a snide remark about black "culture." (I could make a closer, religious, parallel, but I don't want to Godwinize the thread.) I hope it's not considered overly "PC" to ask for a little respect for people who aren't exactly like yourself, and who are going through shit you can barely imagine.
posted by languagehat at 11:00 AM on March 3, 2004


Well, yeah, they can be, and have been, and are.

No, they haven't. Just because you claim ownership of something doesn't make it valid.

this is like finding a picture of somebody flagellating himself for Good Friday (with lots o' photogenic blood) and using it to scorn Easter and Christianity

Yes, and that has been posted here in the past too.

five fresh fish and languagehat are the only people injecting race into this

Agreed. It is the action that is objectionable, not the color or religion or sex or height/weight of the people committing it.
posted by rushmc at 11:42 AM on March 3, 2004


You might reflect on the fact that Shi'ites are the victims of discrimination and violence in most Islamic countries outside of Iran

You might, but that has nothing to do with this particular post.
posted by rushmc at 11:43 AM on March 3, 2004


languagehat: If you want to have a double standard for treatment of kids who aren't white, just be explicit about it. Call me crazy, but I think kids shouldn't be abused, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

One of the interesting things about this thread was the fact that people were able to recognize the double standards in American cultural norms (i.e., circumcision v. Ashura) and discuss the issue. Of course, that becomes much harder to do when someone implies that any criticism by ostensibly white people of a cultural practice by ostensibly non-white people is automagically racist.
posted by subgenius at 11:49 AM on March 3, 2004


Nothing I wrote or intended had ANY racial overtones. I don't care what color people's skin is, I care about what their character is.

Sorry, slicing kids for a holiday isn't cool in my book. I won't be convinced otherwise. The bloodletting could be symbolic rather than real, it could be a pin prick as has been mentioned before. The "need" to cut and allow blood to flow down over a child's face is melodramatic and abusive. And yes, I am basing that on a bias, the bias that I was raised by a pediatric social worker who's removed children from families for FAR less than this.

Languagehat, you're right, it is about commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, as I noted in the FPP. Why that should needlessly involve bloodletting of children is the question I've yet to see answered with any coherency?

Kaibutsu, its not a bad seed, its a whole legion of bad seeds taking part in the blood letting of kids. But thanks for your cogent response!
posted by fenriq at 12:02 PM on March 3, 2004


No, they haven't. Just because you claim ownership of something doesn't make it valid.

Zzzzt. Semantic waffling. 10 yard penalty!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:58 PM on March 3, 2004


Why that should needlessly involve bloodletting of children is the question I've yet to see answered with any coherency?

It shouldn't. The question I've yet to see answered with any coherency is why a post on an interesting, important subject like Ashura derailed itself right off the bat with a sensationalistic reference to a regional peculiarity that is not part of the festival (hence my comparison to taking the kind of bloody flagellation practiced in places like New Mexico as representative of the Easter celebration). If you want to ignore the issue of race, fine, it's not central here. I just think this is a piss-poor way to frame a post. You're at liberty to disagree.

that has nothing to do with this particular post

Yes, let us by all means kick those who are down already. It's the American Way.
posted by languagehat at 5:27 PM on March 3, 2004


I just think this is a piss-poor way to frame a post.

Then perhaps Meta would be the appropriate place to air such concerns?
posted by rushmc at 5:34 PM on March 3, 2004


Race does enter the picture.

White folk frequently cut off the tip of their boys' penises and puncture holes in the lobes of their girls' ears and get their children immunized. These practices are not decried with nearly the venom that this photograph has generated, particularly on a few other sites.

Do you really think the Shi'ites are using dull butter knives and cutting whacking great hunks out of their children's scalps? Do the men in the pictures have bloody great scars where no hair grows because they were sliced-up as children?

No.

And then we have a bunch of people saying "well, if it were only a pin-prick, it would be okay!"

Uh-huh. Like a child is going to calmly let someone jab a needle into their finger.

What's really happened in this pictures is that the child has been nicked with a very sharp razor in an area that is just packed with small blood vessels. The kid doesn't see it happening so there's no tension and freaking-out during the actual act. And if you've ever cut yourself with a razor you know it's no more painful than a pinprick.

Finally, it's practiced by a very, very small minority of Shi'ites, and that practice is dying out. So what we all want to see happen is going to happen anyway, without our intervention at all.

All the sound and fury and pissing-on-Shi'ites that's going on as these stupid picture makes the rounds is accomplishing nothing more than provide fodder for racists.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:58 PM on March 3, 2004


the picture of tranquility

Um yeah, five fresh, this child looks completely calm. Sure. Whatever.

another calm Ashoura child

Oh yeah, this one looks MUCH calmer.

Calling me and others racist for having an issue with this custom is stupid and shortsighted. A sword is a damned sight more frightening than a needle.
posted by fenriq at 9:03 PM on March 3, 2004


If you were so upset by the picture you just had to post it, you could have said "Look what this idiot Lebanese dad is doing to his kid! Isn't that awful?" But then people might have said "So? ShockFilter!" So you chose to frame it in a way that insults the entire Shi'a religion to give it a false air of general importance. Way to go.
posted by languagehat at 7:20 AM on March 4, 2004


But languagehat, the idiot Lebanese dad is not choosing to do this to his kid on a random violent impulse. How can you suggest that his motives for doing this are not relevant and open to discussion? You really do seem to be in denial on this one, refusing to admit the obvious in some sort of attempt to be fair and even-handed. I wonder if you would step up to be such an apologist for other organizational atrocities if they didn't have "religion" tacked to their name? Or even some others of those that DO.

Where do you stand on African clitorectomies, I wonder?
posted by rushmc at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2004


I have a guess: "You only condemn genital mutilation of African girls because you hate the black people, because you want to mock their culture, because you want to rationalize some sort of war in Africa, and/or because you want to distract the people from problems here at home." Or maybe: "It's unfair to criticize that practice, because Africa is a mess due to Western colonialism."

Pay no attention to the mutilated child behind the curtain.
posted by subgenius at 9:15 AM on March 4, 2004






Goddamn barbarians.

I mean, barbars.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 AM on March 4, 2004


Oh, I forgot: "Cutting off a black baby's clitoris and sewing her labia together is the functional equivalent of cutting a white baby's hair."
posted by subgenius at 9:50 AM on March 4, 2004






My god. Instead of nicking the kid with a straight razor, here they're actually lopping off big chunks of flesh from the most sensitive part of the body!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:57 AM on March 4, 2004


(I'm all for cultural tolerance but this strikes me as pretty blatant child abuse.)

(As an addendum: I want to hurt that man very, very badly.)

(Take a look at some of the pictures, these kids are scared, in pain and not enjoying the "religiousosity" of it all.)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:01 AM on March 4, 2004


If you read through the thread, you'll notice that the circumcision issue was raised in the first post and discussed throughout the thread. I said they were both barbaric nearly two days ago. Child abuse is child abuse, regardless of the ethnicity or religion of the victim or assailant.

However, if I was to respond to your circumcision critique the same way you responded to this FPP, I'd probably have to begin by suggesting you hate the Jews.
posted by subgenius at 10:25 AM on March 4, 2004


A few quibbles--

Its "celebrated" by cutting oneself or others with swords and knives and is primarily aimed at children though many adults get into it as well.

Well, the ''celebrated by'' cutting oneself or others is a tad overbroad and simplistic. Cutting oneself is a practice practiced by some Sh'ia and condemned by others. The cutting of others applies those Sh'ia who see Ashoura as a rite of passage for their sons, I suppose, but primarily the cutting, bleeding and flagellation seems to be a ritual for adult men where it is practiced. Ashoura is a bit more complex than that. Not all Sh'ia approve of the practice of cutting and flagellation, as noted in the link just above--Not all Shias approve of the bloody display. Hizbollah criticizes the practice, saying that the Prophet Mohammad would not want his followers to hurt themselves unnecessarily. They advocate showing thanks for Husayn's sacrifice by donating blood to bloodbanks instead.

As for the is primarily aimed at children, I say bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. That one you pulled from your ass, fenriq.

So, here are Libyan children celebrating Ashoura. They appear to be begging door to door for sweets, as do Iranian children during Now Ruz. And speaking of Iran, here are pictures of Ashoura in Teheran. Not a drop of blood in sight in either case.

In the Philippines, by the way, many men celebrate Good Friday by flagellating themselves or having themselves crucified, right down to the pounding of nails through their feet and wrists. As you can see, much blood is spilled. You could write Catholics celebrate Good Friday by flagellating and crucifying themselves, I suppose, and it would be just as ''accurate'' as what fenriq wrote about the Sh'ia here.

As to such practices followed by some members of a particular sect of Christians or Muslims, I can see an argument for banning the whipping, cutting, bleeding and crucifixions for public health reasons--infection with blood borne diseases like HIV or Hepatitis C would seem to be a possibility with all those bodily fluids being splattered.

Another quibble:

Kaibutsu, are you familiar with people who are covered from head to toe in tattoos and piercings? Do you wonder why? They become addicted to the body's natural reaction to an attack in the form of an ink filled needle or a jabbing bit of metal by flooding the blood stream with endorphins and other naturally produced altercants.

Endorphins is a woo woo buzzword associated with a set of common folk beliefs. There is controversy as to the hypothesis that endorphin release causes what is know as Runner's High, for example, and whether they are involved with the experience at all, and it seems to be from this hypothesis about the runner's high that the endorphin woo woo got started. Online, practically all the tattooing causes endorphin release hype seems to be coming from the scientific researchers who run tattoo parlor websites, although acupuncturists sometimes make the same claim. But these hippy dippy beliefs are not scientific facts.

Now concerning altercants--it looks like you might have co-invented a word there, fenriq.

And as to languagehat's remark--The question I've yet to see answered with any coherency is why a post on an interesting, important subject like Ashura derailed itself right off the bat with a sensationalistic reference to a regional peculiarity that is not part of the festival , well, it still has not been answered.
posted by y2karl at 11:24 AM on March 4, 2004


if it bleeds, it leads, y2k.

And I like the thing about donating blood during Ashoura...we need a holiday like that.
posted by amberglow at 11:28 AM on March 4, 2004


Here is an almost direct quote of the FPP, modified appropriately:

Brit Milah Day
(warning, the image in the link is graphic and disturbing and is from Yahoo News, sorry about the lameness of the source) Brit Milah Day is a Jewish celebration that commemorates the circumcision of the male infant, aged eight days.
Its "celebrated" by cutting the flesh off the penis, and is primarily aimed at newborn babies though some older boys get chopped as well. I'm all for cultural tolerance but this strikes me as pretty blatant child abuse.
For an in depth examination of what the Brit Milah commemoration means, check out The Connotations of Circumcision.


No one would dare call it a racist post, though, right?

(To make this a direct imitation of the original, I'd have to claim Brit Milah celebrates chopping adult men's penises; IOW, lie about who's really most likely to participate.)
posted by five fresh fish at 6:39 PM on March 4, 2004


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