Friday, September 2, 2011
And so, I was having a beer with a few friends this fine eve, when I blurted (like an instinctual fool), LETS GO TO BAJA!
Indeed. This blog will be on vacation, as I load my 91 Ford Bronco and pile in 5 surfboards, cast-iron grill set, a bottle of whiskey, food, water, gear, and everything else, for a 4-day Baja jam down to . . . Ahh! Careful, careful! I'll post picture when I come back. Until then, here are some blasts from the past.
(I should also say that Baja surf trips are as soulful to me as surfing from Israel to Lebanon was: they are both Those Things that I'll look back on in old age, feeling that I did what I could in my youth . . . and for that, I'm most grateful. Pictures soon. Take care guys.)
Monday, August 29, 2011
Yep! I've said enough. (I'll leak the rest of the videos over the next few days.)
These videos capture some of the sheer emotional power that Ashoura has upon Shi'a Muslims of all ages. Ashoura commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, his kinsmen, and his close followers in Karbala in what is now modern-day Iraq. Hussein was the son of Ali ibn Abu Talib, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohammad who is considered by Shi'a Muslims to have been the rightful successor to the Prophet Muhammad. Hussein was the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and he championed his family's ability to rule the faithful, in opposition to Caliph of the Islamic Empire in Damascus, Yazid. Yazid's forces hunted Hussein and his companions down to the the dry earth of Karbala where they massacred him and his kinsmen, save for some women companions, most notably his sister Zainab, and his youngest son, and eventual Shi'a Imam, Ali.
Every year on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram, Shi'a Muslims remember the sacrifice of Hussein and his companions at Karbala during Ashoura (the "10th day"). Commemoration of Ashoura can be both personal and public. Ashoura is a distinguishing day, a festival that emphasizes distinctly the seemingly irreconcilable philosophical differences between the Sunni and Shi currents in Islam. It is on Ashoura that the rank-and-file member of the Shi'a Musim community reaffirms their intellectual and emotional affinity for Hussein and his companions, and asserts their belief that the Family of the Prophet Muhammad were the best capable to guide the spirits of the Muslim community.
The most famous, and perhaps infamous, rituals for commemorating Ashoura are the latam, in which the person participating makes small cuts along their body (usually on the forehead) with a razor, and then proceeds over the course of the day to beat the wound with their hand or a blunt sword. The bleeding that this causes is a reminder of the wounds suffered by Hussein and his companions at Karbala. Latam is an extremely controversial practice that has been outlawed by several Shi'a Muslim clergymen, including the recently deceased Lebanese Shi'a cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the Iraqi Shi'a cleric Ali Al-Sistani, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the source of religious authority for Hezbollah. The two strongest Shi'a Muslim political parties in Lebanon, Hezbollah and Haraket Amal, both dissuade the practice of latam. These videos demonstrate several instances of latam and the honest emotional frenzy of the individual and the collective latam during the course of the day during Ashoura.
The scenes depicted in these videos were recorded on December 16, 2010, in Nabatieh, Lebanon. Nabatieh is a a significant market town nestled in the Amel Mountains in south-central Lebanon. It is host to a large Ashoura commemoration that is noted for the intensity of its emotion and for the widespread practice of latam. In Lebanon and elsewhere in the world where Ashoura is practiced publicly, latam is looked down upon. In contrast to Nabatieh, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Hezbollah organizes Ashoura processions that take on the pomp and pageantry of military parades, without the latam.
Ashoura in Nabatieh is part somber religious ceremony and part carnival. Participants in the Nabatieh latam are of all ages, male and female, and they remember the example of Hussein and his companions in political party organized groups (especially under the direction of Haraket Amal), by non-aligned civil society associations, by extended family, or by the nuclear family. There are many small latam groups that consisted of a father, a few children, and a mother who was energetically and enthusiastically recording her family's commemoration with a cell phone video camera. Throughout the city there is a palpable energy of both sorrow at the martyrdom of Hussein and a confidence that the future will see the victory of the ideas of the Family of the Prophet over the unrighteous and the oppressors of the world.