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The Shia: Islam's 120 Million Minority

2006 Vol. 5: Sept/Oct

In a display reminiscent of a tribal blood-fest, a Shia Muslim crowd of several hundred gathers near Tehran,
preparing to offer homage to martyrdom. It is the tenth day of the Islamic month of Muharram, and the Ashura festival has begun. The thud of metal on flesh reverberates as men whip their backs with pointed lengths of chain. Others strike their heads with knives or razors, slapping their chests and chanting to the point of collapse.
White ceremonial garments are soaked in blood. Women hold young boys high, their scalps split in the same manner as their fathers. The throng revels in these frenzied acts, the primal pitch and surge ending in absolute exhaustion.

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