27/08/2008

Devout Musllim Convicted Of Child Cruelty

A man described as a devout Muslim has been found guilty of child cruelty after coercing two young boys to beat themselves during a religious ceremony.

Syed Mustafa, 44, was found guilty of two counts of child cruelty at Manchester Crown Court.

The boys, aged 13 and 15, were forced to beat themselves with a zanjeer whip, with five curved blades.

The boys suffered multiple lacerations to their backs, with several deeper cuts.

Zaidi, of Station Road, Eccles, Salford, also flogged himself during the ceremony at a community centre in Levenshulme, Manchester, on 19 January.

The boys who cannot be named for legal reasons, said they wanted to beat themselves, but not under duress and not using Zaidi's zanjeer whip.

Both boys said they had flogged themselves with a smaller zanjeer from the age of six in Pakistan.
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The younger boy giving evidence said that Zaid told them both: "Start doing it, start doing it" to which they replied "we don't want to do it".

The boy said he saw Zaidi flogging himself with the zanjeer before washing his blood from it and handing it to the older boy.

He said Zaidi was "pulling and pushing" him telling others present "this is a sad moment and look he's not doing it".

After the 15-year-old "swung once or twice", he was pulled away by another man.

A 20-minute film of the traditional Ashura ceremony showed Zaidi flagellating himself until his back was bloody and cut.

Those who attend the men-only events chant and beat their chests, while others cry openly.

The ceremony takes place during the Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and commemorates the death of Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

Zaidi said "if I'd know this would be the result of breaking the law I would never have done it".

Performing the acting of self-flagellation – known as the 'matam' is intended to bring out feelings of bereavement and grief.

(DS)

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