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Shi'ite man flagellate himseld during Asuara festival in Najaf Reuters

Shia Muslims around the world have begun celebrating Ashura, a religious festival to commemorate the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

During the festival, Muslims observe voluntary fast or congregate at a Mosque for sorrowful, poetic recitations. The event also observes marches of mourners which are often accompanied by men publicly self-flagellating themselves with knives and chains. The Shi'a men believe that the bloody-flagellation is a way to empathise with Husayn 's sufferings.

Ashura is celebrated each year in the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, on the 10th of Muharram. The practice of flagellation is highly criticised and some scholars argue that this goes against the teachings of Islam.

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Shi'ite men flagellate themselves during a ceremony marking Ashura in Kerbala, Iraq Reuters
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In Kerbala, Iraq Reuters
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Ashura in progress in Najaf Reuters
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A Kashmiri Shi'ite Muslim mourner flagellates himself as they are stopped by Indian policemen while trying to participate in a Muharram procession during a curfew in downtown Srinagar Reuters
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Self-flagellation in Iraq Reuters