Be warned: the photos here are pretty graphic. :eek:
I don’t have a real problem with this. There are different customs all over the world. In the Southwest, for example, we have Catholics who flagellate themselves. Yes, it isn’t officially approved of, but it is their custom.
I lived in Iran for 4 years (before & during the Revolution). This was one of the practises that the Shah was trying to stamp out. While it was still allowed, they were not permitted to use the main streets of the city. They do this in reparation for the sin of having allowed the Imam Hussein to be massacred along with 60 or so of his followers at the initial split of Islam into the Shia and Sunni sects. Only Shi’ites do this; it was their Imam who was killed. The Sunnis were the ones who ambushed and massacred him and his followers. (at least this was how it was explained to me by an Iranian)
At the bazaar, you could purchase the flagellas, usually a short piece of wood for a handle with several lengths of chains attached - 3, 5, 7 or more depending on how much piety you wished to demonstrate. The weight and length of the chains also varied from very light to fairly heavy.
This is a group exercise, male only. They march down the streets chanting and beating themselves. Take a few steps, chant the particular verse, and then a series of dull thuds, the sound of the chains striking their backs. When they went passed my house, my dog started going frantic, barking and growling so I brought him inside. I wasn’t game to even poke my head through the curtain to look out the window at them. It was a frightening experience. I was very afraid that they would be offended by my dog challenging them during their ‘devotions’ (dogs are haram) and would be over the wall to deal with the offense.
I was told, but cannot personally verify, that all the injuries they sustain during this ‘practice’ are miraculously healed the next day.
I don’t recall that children or babies, had been included in this before the revolution. I had always understood that children were exempted from extreme religious observances (like fasting during Ramadan and Ashoura) until they were of age and could choose to do this for themselves - so at least 13 years old. It is disturbing that they are now doing this to babies (poor kid was still sucking on his dummy), who have no choice, nor understanding, in the matter and who could be seriously traumatised, or hurt or even die from the loss of blood.