Harrowing images of bleeding men and children are circulating around the internet as Muslims begin to celebrate Ashura, an Islamic holiday dedicated to the memory of one of the Prophet Mohammed's grandchildren.
During the festival, which consists of 10 days of mourning, many Muslims engage in acts of bloodletting. These include self-flagellation and cutting of the scalp with knives, according to the Daily Mail.
In one photo taken in Chennai, India, several men are seen holding a young girl still while someone off camera prepares to cut open her scalp with a large knife. In the background, another young girl with blood on her head sucks on a pacifier and appears to be crying.
Other images, many of them reportedly taken in Iraq and Pakistan, depict men whose entire heads and torsos are covered in blood.
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Ashura begins on the 10th of Muharram (Oct. 11 this year), the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and is observed by Muslims all over the world. The point is to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, one of Mohammed's grandchildren. Hussein was killed in combat in 680 AD.
While the holiday is recognized by all denominations of Islam, Shia Muslims tend to give it the most attention. As such, the festival is marked by heightened tension between Shia and Sunni Muslims, whose theological differences often result in violent conflict.
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The world's reaction to the bloody nature of the celebrations has led some Muslim leaders to call for moderation, according to The Independent. For example, it has been suggested that Muslims simply donate blood rather than cut and whip themselves.