The Happy Arab News Service

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Happy Ashoura to Our Shia Friends

Frogs and rabbits breathed a collective sigh of relief today as the Arab/Muslim world has temporarily abandoned its courage parades for the sake of Ashoura's celebrations, the holiest day of the Shia. In Iraq it was the usual mess with an exception of a strange Shia messianic sect that apparently tried to carry out an attack on Najaf:

Assailants struck Shiite worshippers in three Iraqi cities Tuesday, killing at least 39 people in bombings and ambushes during the climax of ceremonies marking Ashoura, the holiest day in the Shiite calendar. In apparent retaliation, mortar shells slammed into predominantly Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad hours later, killing at least five people and wounding 20, officials said.

Tens of thousands of Shiites Muslims converged on the holy city of Karbala — where the 7th-century battle took place that cemented the schism between Sunnis and Shiites — beating their chest and heads to mark the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson. The entire city was sealed off, all vehicles were banned, and pilgrims were searched at numerous checkpoints, a day after the Iraqi army said it had foiled a plot by a messianic Shiite group to storm the nearby city of Najaf.

The bloodiest attack Tuesday occurred when a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of worshippers entering a Shiite mosque, killing 19 people and wounding 54 in Mandali, a predominantly Shiite city northeast of Baghdad and near the Iranian border.

. . .

Iraqi police and military official questioned hundreds of suspects rounded up after a weekend battle near Najaf aimed at preventing a major attack against leading Shiite clerics and pilgrims coinciding with Ashoura.

The U.S. military said Iraqi security forces went to the area on Sunday after hearing that gunmen from a messianic Shiite cult were disguising themselves as pilgrims in order to carry out a surprise attack on the holy city.

Iraq's army said it killed the leader of the cult, called "Soldiers of Heaven," in a 24-hour battle that was ultimately won with the support of U.S. and British jets and American ground forces.

The U.S. military said more than 100 gunmen were captured but it did not say how many were killed. Iraq's Defense Ministry, by contrast, raised its figures on Tuesday to say 263 militants were killed, 210 wounded and 392 captured.

Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said those detained included 35 women and 31 children following reports that the gunmen had brought their families with them to make it easier to infiltrate the city.

. . .


In Lebanon our old friends held their own celebrations that nicely and symbolically followed the latest Sunni Shia infighting in Beirut:

In the southern Lebanese town of Nabatiyeh, thousands of Shiite men walked in circles in the town square, many slashing their heads with swords and then pounding the wound with the palm of their hand. They wore white sheets as symbolic shrouds, which also served to absorb the blood.

Men brought their young sons, parts of their heads shaven, to a hall in Nabatiyeh where a man cleansed a pocket-knife with alcohol before striking each boy several times on the head. Some boys cried and resisted, but the cutting proceeded.

"We're used to it," said Mahmoud Jaber, 43, who brought his five boys to slash their heads. "We've been doing this since we were kids. I started when I was three. It doesn't hurt because the cry of pain goes away with the faith."

Another participant, Abbas Mahmoudi, an engineer, explained why he cut himself by saying: "If the intention is sincere, then I will be rewarded (by God)."

Mahmoudi, 24, said he was not worried about the hostility between the leading Shiite and Sunni political parties in Lebanon. "Al Hamdulillah, (praise be to God), the Shiites are always victorious," he said. (I consider optimism a highly commendable personal quality. NB)

. . .


I would like to use this opportunity and in the good old tradition of our peace movement practiced these days on countless Israeli blogs, to congratulate our Shia friends and others with the Ashoura festival. After all all of us .. we are all just human beings ... mmmmm ... something is wrong here... AHH !!! ... sorry, loonies ... i meant to say ordinary human beings. And so after all we are all just ordinary human beings trying to go on with our ordinary human lives.

And here it goes ... Happy Ashoura to everybody !!! Gmar Hatima Tova !!! Good slashing and nice self flagellation or whatever you are doing there. Enjoy yourselves.
Ashoura celebrations in Iraq


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