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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

April 6, 2009

City of Brass.

This blog is on indefinite hiatus. For further Shi'a-related blogging (among other topics), please visit City of Brass at Beliefnet.


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August 19, 2008

child abuse.

I don't see this as an issue of freedom of religion at all:

A man whipped himself until he bled during a Shia Muslim religious ceremony, before allegedly forcing two boys to do the same, a court has heard.

Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, is accused of encouraging the boys, aged 13 and 15, to beat themselves at a community centre in Manchester on 19 January.
Prosecutors said the 15-year-old boy, who is not seen in the film but was allegedly forced to take part in the ceremony, suffered multiple lacerations to his back and shoulders, including a wound measuring up to a centimetre long.

Andrew Nuttall, prosecutor, said Mr Zaidi also harmed himself in the film.

"This devout man used considerable force upon himself, clearly causing injuries, and causing others present to fear for his safety to such an extent that they started to intervene and calm him down," he said.

Mr Nuttall said Mr Zaidi then went on to encourage the 15-year-old boy to flog himself and gave him "no choice" about participating in the ceremony.

He said Mr Zaidi took the arm of the 13-year-old boy, took off his T-shirt so he was bare-chested and put the zanjeer in his hand and told him to flog himself.

The practice of self-flagellation is an extreme one - mainstream Shi'a communities do not endorse or sanction it, and even those that do are clear that it is not for children, only for adults. As the articlegoes on to emphasize:

'Not for children'

The court heard how Mr Zaidi had attended a meeting at the community centre two days before the ceremony, where it was made plain that children under the age of 16 should not participate.

Mr Zaidi denies forcing the boys to participate and claims they had requested to take part.

Mr Nuttall said: "The prosecution say the defendant ignored the advice given to him that this practice was not allowed for children under 16 years of age."

The actions of Zaidi are reprehensible and far from being a matter of freedom of religious practice, is clearly a simple case of child abuse. His actions have no religious sanction or justification and are solely the result of his own twisted moral sense, one not shared by the members of his own community. To paint this as an issue of freedom of religion is completely false. This has nothing to do with religion.

Of course the actions of Zaidi are now being used to paint Shi'a muslims as deviant in some circles, for example in this thread at Deenport:

What's the right response to this? I know that 'we Sunnis' don't condone this kind of behaviour but you can always cast this as a religious freedom issue. Also, the problem with certain third parties who are going to blame 'Islam' for this. Do we dissociate ourselves from the Shia completely (this is against Islamic practice and is done only by a small number of loons) or uphold their freedom to do this and kick our own Dawah into gear and try to educate these people out of this kind of thing?

emphases mine. Luckily othr commenters in the thread gently rebuke the above by pointing out that overgeneralization cuts both ways:

On the whole, i have found the shia community appear to be highly disciplined and well organised. Radio 4 coverage of the event DID state that other members of the congregation tried to intervene when they saw the youngsters intoduced to the ceremony. Its important not to generalise and accept that most shia families are as normal and balanced as their sunni co-religionists.

In many ways, the issue really serves to highlight the necessity of governmental oversight of religious practice. Not to define what religious practices are "correct" or not, but rather to simply be blind to religion when evaluating issues against the law. The question of whether self-flagellation is an authentic Islamic or Shi'a practice is a (bloody) red herring - the question is simply whether the actions violated Law. And they did, so Mr. Zaidi needs to be prosecuted accordingly. Bringing this issue into the domain of religious freedom only serves to cloud the issue, and taint the entire muslim community, Sunni and Shi'a alike.

As one commenter in the Deenport thread put it,

apart from the (elected) government, who else can provide public safeguards when religious practices veer into problematic areas, for instance where they are forced upon those who are uncomfortable with them, or simply don't accept them as 'correct' religious practices?

I do believe that ultimately, these safeguards protect religious minorities even while they impose limits on public manifestations of religion. Do we need protecting from ourselves? I think that sometimes we do...

well said.

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May 19, 2008

Ismaili activist jailed in Riyadh.

RIYADH: Saudi authorities have detained a leading Ismaili activist after he complained to the king over alleged rights abuses against the Shiite minority, a fellow activist said yesterday. Security police detained Ahmed Turki Al-Saab in Riyadh on Tuesday, days after he and five other Ismaili Shiites from the southern province of Najran handed to King Abdullah a 300-page report over alleged abuses by its governor, seeking to have him removed, said Mohammed Al-Askar. “They (security services) did not say why he was arrested without being charged,” he told Reuters.

Saab played a key role in issuing the report, Askar said. Najran, bordering Yemen, is a centre of the Ismailis, a Shiite sect which has long complained of victimisation by the prevailing school of Sunni Islam followed by the Saudi state. It was the scene of violent clashes in 2000, when hundreds of Ismailis clashed with police over plans to dilute their presence with Sunnis.

The Ismailis have said they had successfully petitioned King Abdullah two years ago to halt settlement of up to 10,000 Yemeni tribesmen outside Najran city. The Ismailis sent a protest letter in January to Najran governor Prince Mishaal bin Saud, complaining of marginalisation and demanding an end to plans to settle another Yemeni tribe. The report that was presented to the king, which was signed by 77 Najran citizens, carried the same grievances.

This incident just underscores in my mind the vast gulf between the King's rhetoric about reform and the facts on the ground. I wonder whether the King's authority really extends beyond the sphere of oil policy. What use a king without a strong hand?

via John.


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Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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