British Muslim convicted over teen floggings

Said to have forced them during Shiite ceremony


A British court found a devout Muslim guilty of cruelty Wednesday for forcing two teenagers to flog themselves until their backs bled during a Shiite religious ceremony.

A jury at Manchester Crown Court convicted Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, on two counts of child cruelty over the incidents, during a ceremony in January to commemorate the death of Imam Hussein.

The victims, who were 13 and 15 at the time, were forced to beat themselves with a zanjeer zani, which has a wooden handle with chains and five blades attached. Zaidi, who denied cruelty, also beat himself during the ceremony.

A prosecution lawyer stressed that the case was not an attack on Islamic traditions.

"The Crown Prosecution Service wishes to make it clear that this prosecution was not an attack upon the practices or ceremonies of Shiite Muslims," said Carol Jackson of the Greater Manchester CPS.

She noted that the prosecution relied in part on the evidence of the president of the local Shiite community centre.

"The law exists to protect the young from harm or being exposed to harm. In this case, both boys were made to take part in the ritual flagellation and suffered injuries to their backs.

"We are satisfied that, given the age of the children involved, the coercion employed by Syed Mustafa Zaidi, who did not accept that he was wrong, and the possibility of such an incident occurring again, the decision to prosecute... was the correct one."

The two victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted they wanted to beat themselves, but not to be forced to do so, and not with Zaidi's zanjeer zani.

They also acknowledged they had flogged themselves with a similar implement from the age of six, in Pakistan.