Today is Ashura, a major Muslim holiday.
But don’t say “happy Ashura.” At least not to a Shia Muslim.
For Shia Muslims – and anyone else who chooses to lament the martyrdom of the Prophet’s grandson Hussein on this day – Ashura isn’t about happiness.
A holiday that isn’t about happiness?! That’s a hard concept for Americans to grasp. Here in the USA every holiday is a celebration of the “pursuit of happiness”: We say happy Fourth of July, happy Halloween, happy Easter, happy Veterans Day, happy President’s Day, happy Thanksgiving, happy Groundhog Day, happy National Secretaries Day, you name it. The only non-happy American holiday is Christmas – not because we’ve officially admitted that most people are miserable from seasonal affective disorder or being forced to interact with their families or whatever, but because for some reason we always say “merry Christmas” not “happy Christmas.” And “merry” basically just means “sufficiently happy while drunk on eggnog to tolerate ones relatives.”
So for Americans, every holiday is ostensibly happy or merry. An unhappy holiday is an oxymoron.
There are only two exceptions to this rule, and both are unofficial holidays: September 11th and JFK Day. Every time 9/11 and 11/22 roll around, people remember America’s two greatest-ever national tragedies: The killing of the last real President, and the final death of the Republic. 9/11 and JFK day are a bit like Ashura: They commemorate evil, unjust, murderous coups d’état.
Shia Muslims commemorate the slaughter of a good ruler, the Prophet’s grandson and legitimate heir Hussein, by the evil S.O.B. Yazid, by beating their chests and backs with light chains. I wouldn’t mind seeing Americans likewise beating themselves every November 22nd to commemorate the murder of a relatively good leader, JFK, by a bunch of evil SOBs including LBJ, Allan Dulles, George H.W. Bush, Cord Meyer, James Jesus Angleton, Meyer Lansky, and very likely David Ben Gurion. And I wouldn’t mind seeing Americans beating themselves with HEAVY chains every 9/11 to mourn the murder of the American dream by a bunch of neoconservative scumbags who make the Elders of Zion look like small-timers.
The same neocon propagandists who brought you 9/11 are trying to make you hate Ashura – so watch out for made-in-Israel reports about “Crazy Shia fanatics beating themselves bloody.”
Alongside the self-flagellating processions, Shia Muslims also stage theatrical re-enactments of the Passion of Hussein on Ashura. Maybe Americans could borrow that idea too, and have a parade re-enacting the doomed Dallas motorcade in every American city, town, and village. Now that Sherwood Ross and Jim Fetzer have identified every one of the six shooters who fired at JFK in Dallas, we can outdo the Shia by featuring a whole slew of villains in our re-enactments: Deputy Sheriff Harry Weatherford firing from the top of the County Records Building; US Air Force marksman Jack Lawrence firing from the south end of the Triple Underpass; George H.W. Bush’s protégé Tony “Nestor” Izquierdo, supervised by Bush himself, firing the only unsilenced bullets from the Dal-Tex building; CIA asset Roscoe White firing from the Grassy Knoll; LBJ’s personal hitman Malcolm “Mac” Wallace firing from the Texas School Book Depository; and CIA asset Frank Sturgis firing from the north end of the Triple Underpass.
Alongside the shooters, Kennedy Day re-enactments could also feature the “big villains”: the psychopaths LBJ, Bush, and Dulles; the paranoid-psychotic schemer Angleton, the genocidal fanatic Ben Gurion, and the mobster scumbag Lansky.
And alongside the martyred hero JFK, they could feature smaller heroes including Lee Harvey Oswald, a federal informer who was trying to stop the assassination; and Abraham Bolden, the Secret Service Agent who exposed a parallel Chicago plot to assassinate JFK.
If we really work at it, JFK day could be bigger than Ashura – and more dramatic than Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
And I won’t even get into what we could do on 9/11 day.
Though I will say that if we beat ourselves with heavy chains for going along with such a transparent, and transparently evil, coup d’état as 9/11, we should also make sure to beat the neocons with some really, REALLY heavy chains.
Getting back to Ashura – and I know this has been a long digression, but hey, we Americans have our heads you-know-where and mostly only talk about America – as I say, getting back to Ashura, there is something truly beautiful about a huge public holiday that mourns the murder of a good, just, pious, holy, legitimate leader by a psychopathic scumbag and his henchmen.
Though Shia and Sunni Muslims generally observe Ashura differently, there is no disagreement whatsoever about the bottom-line issue: The murder of the good, holy, just, and legitimate ruler Hussein by the psychopathic scumbag Yazid was a cosmic tragedy and a terrible turn for the worse in human history. All Sunni Muslims agree with their Shia brothers and sisters about that. The Sunnis just don’t go around beating their breasts about it.
But maybe they should. Maybe we should all make a point of beating our breasts once a year in mourning for horrific injustice in general, and the slaughter of good leaders by bad ones in particular.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Anyone of you who sees wrong, let him undo it with his hand; and if he cannot, then let him speak against it with his tongue, and if he cannot do this either, then (let him abhor it) with his heart, and this is the least of faith.”
Since the early days of Islam, Muslims have often found it difficult to raise their hands to defend good leaders against bad ones; and to strike down bad leaders in favor of good ones. This problem, of course, afflicts all of humanity, not just Muslims. But since Islam was the seal of prophetic revelations, containing a blueprint for social as well as spiritual order, it experiences the problem in especially acute form.
Shia Muslims, through their rites of Ashura, are hating injustice with their hearts…and speaking out against injustice not just with their tongues, but with their whole bodies as they act out the tragedy of karbala. Though I am not Shia myself, and definitely not into self-flagellation of any sort, no matter how good the reason – and Lord knows I have done a few things that merit expiation – I find the Shia celebration of Ashura beautiful and inspiring.
So today – Ashura, the Tenth of Muharram, the 1,375th anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussein – my heart is with everyone who is mourning the cosmic tragedy of Karbala, and vowing to fight for truth and justice with heart, tongue and hand, come what may.