Saturday, January 27, 2007


Three years ago bombs went off in Karbala during Ashura: the holiday marking Mohammad’s grandson Hossein’s suicidal battle.

Iran is now immersed in Ashura mania, which is a bit like Halloween meets Death to America. It’s an opportunity to take to the streets and embrace the anonymity offered by huge crowds.

About a month ago neighborhoods started decorating for Ashura. Huge paintings of Hossein (or “Hossein’s friend” as one observant Muslim told me) went up alongside tents that are used for gathering to commemorate the death of Hossein. There seems to be more decoration than ever in Tehran. “The neighborhoods got more money for the decorations this year,” a man told us.

Iranians worship victim hood. They use graphic war footage of bombs falling on Iranian soldiers to recruit for the revolutionary guards. They embrace every opportunity for a good public cry. They portray themselves as victims rather than as aggressors.

Well, Inshallah, they don't want to repeat history with another suicidal battle.


Anonymous said...

Its not like Hussein went into a suicidal battle on purpose.
He originally was going to Kufa with his family to help the people there. On the way to Kufa they were stopped in Karbala, sorrounded by 5000-10,000 soldiers, he and his family were then slaughtered.

Tess Durbeyfield said...

I didn't get what you found in common between Ashura and Halloween.

strudel said...

I am Strudel, the wellknown thief of bloggers.
I pick from other blogs to unpgrade mine.

Well, from to time I write I post myself too.

Like the Getty Museum I pick only the best around the world and do not like to give it back.

Now you cannot say I didn't tell you.
Truly yours

(you don't make me feel guilty uh? would you like a box of San Marzano peeled tomatoes ?)

ET said...

Tess: Here is what I meant by Halloween meets Death to Amserica: People go door to door for food (only in Iran you get real food: stews, rice dishes, desserts...), children and adults dress in costume (watch this space for photos on Tuesday or wednesday), houses are decorated with banners and lights...

Anon, you know more than I do.

Strudel, would love some tomatoes (cans of peeled tomatos are about 2 euros here).

Anonymous said...

Baha'u'llah said that Hussein was a sacrifice (for the sake of God) in the same sense that the Christ asked that He become a sacrifice, In the same sense that Abraham willingly offered up his son as a sacrifice...this is part of the way it has to be done to explain part of the Message so that we mere mortals can understand the teachings of the Prophets.

However there are sacrifices and there are acts of revenge and blind hatred. One of the differences that I can think of is that, in the case of the Prophets, Their sons were as precious to Them as Their own life on this mortal plane. However They were called be more and do more than the rest of us, so this was a sign of their commitment even though the humanity in them wept with such lamentation that the angels shared Their grief.

However with other mortals, the suicide bombers, the ones seeking revenge. they are marked, so the psychologists tell us, with an abnormally low self esteem. They are willing to risk themselves or others for the sake of a cause but underneath, based on what little clues we have, there is a cavity, a void, a dark hole that can't be filled, a need to be loved..

I am sure that in a repressed society one of the few authorized outlets of emotional frustration with the present condition is in these kinds of festivals. and if the gov. feels its wants to distract the people more this year, then by all means give more money to the neighborhood associations for this distraction.

Too bad for the Bahais during this time :-(

Anonymous said...

there is consperecy theory that suggests Husain accidently steped on a land mine planted by the Zionists, and was blown into pieces. LOL

Barney said...

Obsessive victimhood is the worst political tool in history. Suffering legitimises many things on a social-justice scale, but when you turn a piece of suffering into a glorified piece of history, a myth... And then tell people that they can join that suffering and join your cause...

Well - you get the Holocaust, the Zionist project, and Guantanamo bay.

This kind of feeling should always be tightly observed even at the smallest symptom. People should not be allowed to opt into suffering because it makes a mockery of it. You cannot choose to be a victim. If you do, then you are not a victim - you are in control.

People who love political victimhood tend to retribute and avenge, causing genuine victimhood, and then say 'But I'm the one has been wronged!'. Incorrect. When you are in control, you are in control.

As cold and hard as it may seem, we must guard ourselves from collectively worshiping death and suffering. Until very recently, Islam was incredibly free of these things compared to Christianity (entirely based on the death and suffering of one man) and Judaism (which obsesses over the oppression of a select race of people). I am not saying turn away from Shia, far from it - but one must be careful to see the truth of one's own feelings behind such shows of collective emotion.

Lotf Ali said...

I think you can be inspired by bravery and martyrdom without necessarily casting yourself as a powerless victim. Different people take different things from their commemoration of these events.