On November 24, Shia Muslims around the world observed the “Day of Ashura,” an annual commemorative event during which adherents remember the life and legacy of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. TheBlaze brought you gruesome footage last Saturday of the mass self-flagellation that some Afghans engaged in to publicly lament Hussein’s 7th century death. Additional clips filled with blood and gore have emerged of similar events that purportedly unfolded in the U.S. as well.
The blog Creeping Sharia posted video of one such ritual that was uploaded to YouTube. While, on the surface, there is little information known about the video concerning when and where it was taken, its contents are certainly shocking. The clip, originally uploaded by a YouTube user named “Maveea,” contains no context or additional information aside from a title that reads, “Ashura in St Louis MO.”
In the video, men are first seen exiting a mosque, while chanting and singing (seemingly in Arabic). The group, which includes children, then makes its way to a grassy area, where some of the individuals remove their shirts and begin beating themselves incessantly. The video continues for more than 12 minutes and concludes with the group walking back towards the mosque.
There are a plethora of actions depicted in the clip, however the most disturbing moments include a child. The boy first appears toward the start of the video wearing a red coat and standing nearby as the adults hit themselves with makeshift whips (it looks as though he, too, has a whip of some sort in his hands — although it is not clear if it is the same as what the adult men use).
Later, the same boy (or another child from the group, as it is difficult to tell baed on the footage) appears to be shirtless, practicing and being coached in how to use the tool on himself and mimicking the men before him:
The video can be viewed in its entirety, below. An adult purportedly coaching the boy in how to use the whip can be watched around the 10:10 point (caution: violence/disturbing):
TheBlaze tried to substantiate that the event was, indeed, recorded in St. Louis, as noted in the YouTube header. As the men emerged from the building at the start of the clip, a number — purportedly an address — appears at the top of the doorway (721).
After a simple Google search, a house of worship called the Shia Islamic Education Center (the Dar al-Zahra Mosque and Education Center) was found (the building is located at 721 Strecker Road in Wildwood, Missouri). Wildwood is a suburb of St. Louis.
Based on construction images of the building, as shown on BaharBastani.com, the outer elements of the house of worship depicted in the video seem to match that of the Shia Islamic Education Center. If, indeed, the building is confirmed, there is still the question of when the event unfolded. While Ashura occurred just days ago, it is possible that this video is older and that it was recently uploaded.
TheBlaze reached out to the Shia Islamic Education Center to speak about the Ashura event via telephone, but was unable to reach a representative. The local Wildwood police department was also contacted to speak further about the mosque and the Ashura commemoration.
In a phone interview, Media Relations Officer Randy Vaughn said that he could not definitively say that the mosque in the clip is the Shia Islamic Education Center, as he is not located in the Wildwood area (he indicated, though, that he does believe it is the same house of worship). However, he and Capt. Kenneth Williams, who is the local precinct director, both reviewed the footage and determined that the activities surrounding the child are likely legal and covered under religious freedom provisions.
“We both looked at it and said…we don’t think…there is a crime,” Vaughn told TheBlaze. “I didn’t see a crime taking place based on the [legal] books we consult [and legislation].”
While an infraction is not visible in the clip, the media relations officer said that he wouldn’t want his kids to watch such a procession. But his personal views and what’s legal, at least in this case, are not mutually exclusive.
While self-flagellation may seem like a bizarre occurrence to most Westerners, the practice is somewhat common in Shia Islamic circles and is rooted in Hussein’s untimely death. The practice of beating oneself is generally not considered illegal if done for religious reasons, however the presence of children is, to a degree, curious (however, again, not necessarily illegal).
As TheBlaze’s Erica Ritz previous reported, in the 7th century, Muhammad’s grandson was said to have been brutally tortured before being killed; some express remorse for not saving him by inflicting a similar punishment on themselves. Ashura is observed by Shiites throughout the world, though not always in such a bloody manner.