Trying to comprehend the significance of it all
Self-flagellation is a good thing.
There are elements of the Zaidi case that will sound familiar to those who grew up in a Punjabi Shia household. There is nothing odd in the father of the household engaging in this particular practice. But I have personally never seen anybody coerced into it, although coercion can, admittedly, take many indirect forms.
Nothing odd, that is, in the father of the household engaging in self-flagellation. Well that depends on what you mean by ‘odd.’ It may be something one has seen before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not odd. I’m going to go right out on a limb here and say that whipping one’s back with knives is, indeed, odd, also stupid and undesirable, especially when done in front of other people, especially when some of them are children. The Dinonysian is not something to be messed with.
[T]he danger of this case is that the ritual of self-flagellation itself is demonised. Those adults who engage in self-flagellation with knives, chains or blades, do so with a consciousness of the ceremonial nature of the act, keenly watched by onlookers, children and adults alike, who, though they have seen it all before, continue to be mesmerised by the sheer spectacle of it – the display.
Exactly; hence the danger and the lack of desirability. It’s not a good (a humane, a responsible, a fair, a decent) idea to stage mezmerizing spectacles of severe self-injury in front of children, or anyone else either. There are things one ought not to mesmerize other people into wanting to do themselves; self-injury is one of those.
This excitement is, for most, mixed with an actual sense of profound identification with the suffering of Imam Hussain…[I]n an age where Muslim communities appear to be in a state of flux, it is this very sacrifice of Hussain that, paradoxically, provides an antithesis to extremism and violence. How? Because it gives a powerful sense of meaningful identification to those, especially among the younger generations, who see beyond the self-inflicted scars and the rituals themselves, and who in some way try and comprehend the significance of it all.
Paradoxically indeed; so paradoxically that it makes no sense. A sense of meaningful identification for those who see beyond the self-inflicted injuries and who in some way try and comprehend the significance of it all. Yes but in what way? And what is the significance of it all? And whatever it is why can’t it be comprehended without the blades hitting the back? If there’s something to be comprehended why can’t it be comprehended in a literal direct explicit rational way? And where – really, where – does the antithesis to extremism and violence come in?