Ashura Bloodletting Ritual Provides Debate for Iraqi Shiites

Hundreds of Shiite men in Iraq struck the heads of boys with daggers in an annual ritual to mark the death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein at the 7th century battle of Kerbala, Reuters reports.

The ritual of Ashura has grown more significant and become more controversial since the fall of Saddam Hussein, who denounced public displays of worship by his country's majority sect, angering some Iraqi Shiites.

The annual bloodletting, known as "tatbeer," according to Reuters, continued Wednesday, with blood spilling onto streets during a march to a shrine in northern Baghdad. The ritual has been long debated among Shiites, some of whom say it gives the sect a barbaric image.

"I feel no pain at all," participant Ali Jabbour told Reuters. "This is for the love of Imam Hussein."

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Opponents, meanwhile, say the ritual violates Islam's prohibition of Muslims intentionally harming their bodies.

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