Shi’ites around the world recently marked the Day of El-Ashura, during which they mourn the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Husayn ibn Ali, the spiritual father of Shia Islam.
This is not a holiday, but a Memorial Day recalling that all the relatives of Mohammed were murdered by his friends and followers. This is how the Islamic civil wars began and how the religion split into two warring factions: Sunnis and Shi’ites.
According to estimates, about 20 percent of all Muslims in the world are Shi’ite. Most live in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon and India. In the not too distant past, Shi’ites in Arab countries were persecuted. Due to the oppression, executions, boycotts and job discrimination that Shi’ites face, many hid their religion. After the Khomeini coup in Iran in 1979, the Shi’ites grew stronger around the Arab world, and today control Lebanon, Iraq and parts of Syria and Yemen. There are now fears in the Sunni Muslim world that Shi’ite Iran will conquer Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and eventually take over the entire region.
As mentioned, the Ashura ceremony commemorates the murder of Mohammed’s family, and concludes with pious Shi’ites lash themselves with iron prods on their backs, chest and shoulders until large amounts of blood cover their pure white robes.
Many Shi’ites have died from the self-inflicted wounds, and those who do are considered holy martyrs who immediately enter heaven. Many Shi’ites force their children to witness this gruesome spectacle. In Western countries, the Ashura ceremony is prohibited, and it should be noted that Sunni Muslims are critical of the brutal Shi’ite ritual.
With tensions between Israel and Iran spiking along the Jewish state’s northern border, many Israeli analysts believed that Iran’s Shi’ite proxy militia Hezbollah would start a war on or shorty after the Day of Ashura. However, it is more likely that the rage-inducing ceremony of this day resulted in increased tensions that will now subside.