Critical Commentary: Shi’ite Muslims Around the World Mark Ashura

Posted on November 19, 2013 by



Around the world Muslims celebrate the mark of Ashura.  Shi’ite Muslims Around the World Mark Ashura, is an article written by Nate Rawlings, and published in the New York Times on November 14, 2013.  The article talks about many different ways Muslims celebrate and honor the holiday Ashura.  Ashura is the tenth day of the Islamic calendar and although it is called a holiday, it is a time of morning and remembrance of the death of the grandson of the prophet Muharram.  The article talks of some Muslims beating their backs, organizing blood drives, and making a pilgrimage to Imam Hussein Shrine. 

The cover picture was of a man in Afghanistan holding bloody knives attached to chains over his back.  His back was bare, with bloody scars and lash marks all over it.  There were other pictures that went along with the cover picture and almost every one displayed a violent, blood filled, and upsetting image. My initial impression of the article after looking at the cover picture was that it had to do with violence and hate instead of a religious holiday.  The large photograph at the start of the article gave a very barbaric and uncivilized feel.  The headline was also deceiving because it read, Shi’ite Muslims Around the World Mark Ashura, when the article did not mention anything about practices done by Muslims in the U.S. or anywhere other than the East during this time.  The article talked much more about the Muslims who honored the day with hurt and in ways extremely opposite from what the Western culture finds appropriate. After reading the article is was hard not to judge the practices of some Muslims in this time of grieving for them.  The article didn’t go in-depth into why exactly some found it necessary to do these unthinkable acts.  The consequence of a short article like this is that as a Western reader I would think the Shi’ite Muslim religion was brutal and old fashioned.  After reading this article, I still have no knowledge of other practices during this time or really anything other than the blood drives, Pilgrimage, and bloody lashes.

Reading farther into the article, it talks about the writer’s personal experience with the Shi’ites during this time.  Nate Rawlings is a former Army officer who graduated with a BA in history from Princeton and received his MS in Journalism from Colombia University.  During his service he led a group of thousands to a Mosque during the time of Ashura.  Rawlings spoke of men who tore their backs and bled so badly that he did not think it was possible for them to continue the journey, but because of their pain and desire to memorialize the loss, they were able to persevere.  After the author told his own personal encounter with the Shi’ites, it brought a much more empathetic feel to the story in direct contrast to the barbaric picture and language at the beginning.

The start of the story was a bit off-putting and unemotional in some ways, but after reading the whole article Rawlings revived it with emotion and relevance that allowed us to connect and feel for the Shi’ites. 


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