Monday, February 25, 2008

Karbala pilgrimage


I guess religious masochism in the form of self-flagellation, hair shirts and suicide bombs just never goes out of style.
Hundreds of thousands of Shiites are walking to Karbala. Many of the roads in the capital are blocked as pious Shiite Muslims make the about 50 mile-trek to the holy city where Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Mohammed, was killed.

On Thursday they commemorate Arbaeen, the anniversary of the 40th day after Hussein's death. Imam Hussein, his family and his followers who were killed were beheaded. On this day over 1300 years ago their heads were returned to their bodies.

The most pious go on foot in memory of the slain figure. Since the 2003 invasion nearly every year there has been blood. This year is no different.

In Iskandiriya, a town within what was known as the Sunni triangle of death, the place where Al Qaida ruled and blood shed was the norm, at least 27 pilgrims were killed today and 50 were injured when a suicide bomber walked into the crowd. Police expect the death toll to climb by tonight. In Baghdad three were killed by grenade attacks. Arbaeen falls on Thursday, thousands more pilgrims will take to the street this week.

In Karbala, already throngs of Shiites had reached the shrine, pounding their chests in mourning for Hussein.

Tomorrow three of our staff members plan to walk. I asked them to stay, worried that another bloody bombing might take place. But the bombings won't stop them, it is their religious duty.

Hey, I don't understand it, but I do believe in religious freedom. If they wanna handle snakes its their choice. Its just not for me.

However, I do draw the line if the pilgrims take along their children which I would guess many do. Children aren't ready to decide they want to risk being blown to shit just to make a pilgrimage. Let them decide such things when they've reached, by my standard, 18 years of age at least.

OK, I guess I believe in limited religious freedom.

Courtesy link Baghdad.

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