British Muslim avoids jail for child cruelty in Ashura

LONDON

A British Muslim avoided jail on Wednesday after being convicted of encouraging two children to whip themselves with a zanjeer as part of a Muslim religious ritual.

Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, pushed the teens to take part in the self-flagellation during Ashura. It left multiple lacerations on their backs – mainly external, but with some deeper cuts. The boys were aged 13 and 15 at the time.

A Manchester court gave Zaidi a 26-week suspended sentence, and ordered him not to allow or encourage anyone under the age of 16 to beat themselves during the next 12 months.

Prosecutors said Zaidi had compelled the children to take part. Zaidi denied the charge.

Manchester Crown Court Judge Robert Atherton said his verdict was not a comment on Ashura, emphasising that British law barred children from harming themselves, even willingly. “You must realise that the law recognises that children and young persons may wish to take part in some activities which it considers they should not,” Atherton told Zaidi. “It is sometimes expressed as protecting themselves from themselves. Your wrongful act was providing the means by which they were able to participate.”

AP

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