Friday, October 18, 2013

The Children's Blood of Muharram

In various chapters of Oh, Your god!, I state ever and anon that, while self-torture, penance, flagellation, etc., are insane and indicators of an unbalanced psychology, any adult has the right to inflict pain upon themselves, even to the extent of their own death for whatever reason they like. They must, however, be willing to accept two irrefutable factors: that they will be criticized for their behavior and that the right to indulge in this kind of masochism ends the moment they contemplate forcibly involving others. Unfortunately, this happens too often, as the expansionist principle of theism is overwhelming -- and undoubtedly the easiest victims are children. 

(photo source unknown. Retrieved from Reddit post)

The Mourning of Muharram marks the first month of the Islamic Calendar. It is the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala in which the grandson of the Prophet, Imam Hussein, was slain. Shi'a Muslims commemorate this event most fervidly by organizing gatherings called majalis and enacting passion plays to portray the pain of Hussein during his torture at the hands of his captors. While these are typically bloodless, the thought brings to mind a similar event that occurs in the Philippines on Easter, when thousands gather to watch tens of willing volunteers undergo literal crucifixion on a hillside to emulate the suffering of Christ. This kind of snuff theatre, as it should, leaves a cold feeling in the stomach. 

Of all the styles of mourning during Muharram, the act of matam is the most macabre. In it, willing volunteers publicly beat their chests ferociously, giving a vivid physical performance of their lamentations. These are of the kinder variety, however, as it is not uncommon for others to flay themselves with cat-o'-nine-tails made of chains, called zanjir, lacerating open their bodies and bleeding freely in the streets. Knives and other cutting implements are often shared among many people, leaving the possibility of infection wide open. 

All this, while asinine and horrifying, is within the civil liberty of anyone who wishes to experience it. The true crime of Muharram comes not from the wounds that men and women inflict upon themselves, but from those that they force upon their young ones. 

It does not require the explanation of yours truly, gentle reader, to see the evil in this. Child abuse is, in a word, an understatement of the worst possible degree. What traumas may result from undergoing this experience once a year might only be guessed at, but it can be affirmed by anyone with the iron will to watch it occur that this event is as terrifying and painful for the child as it is barbaric to watch. 

This is the insanity that occurs when religion is allowed control of a cultural moral compass -- the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son becomes an honorable act to billions of people; holy texts become flooded with the abuse and death of innocent children: the slaying of the firstborn in Exodus; the death of the suckling infants in Samuel; Jepthath murdering his only daughter by burning her at the stake because the lord told him to in Judges; the killing of the baby of David and Bathsheba as penances for their adultery; the killing of forty-two boys by she-bears after Elisha muttered curse of god on them in II Kings; the death of Job's children at the hand of god (for the contemptible motivation of winning a bet...); and a handful of Proverbs (13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14, & 29:15), where god demands the beating of children.

(photo source unknown. Retrieved from Reddit post)

For those with stronger hearts, here are some YouTube videos graphically portraying matam: 

Truth be told, there is a kind of beauty in self-sacrifice: a willingness to put the needs of others or the ideals of principle above one's own life is a kind of dedication of which I can only dream. But, gentle readers, it seems readily apparent to me that an action of this sort is only effective in the name of something tangible and worthwhile. In the visage of credulity and myth, all we witness from the same action is gore, pain, terror, and fanaticism. These actions are trumped in their barbarity by their meaninglessness -- and when children are involved as little more than props for the zeal of adults, in a world where vaginae are sewn shut but foreheads are sliced open, there can be little doubt that 'barbarity' and 'meaninglessness' are far less potent words than what reality requires. 

(photo source unknown. Retrieved from Reddit post)

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