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Iran bans skull-carving in mourning ritual

TEHRAN, April 25 (AFP) - Iran said Sunday it has banned worshippers from carving open their skulls with swords as part of ancient self-flagellation ritual in this week's traditional ceremonies of mourning.

"According to the fatwa (religious decree) by Shiite dignitaries, self-flagellation is prohibited during the mourning ceremonies," Iranian police said in a statement.

In recent years police have tried to curb the practice of "Ghameh-Zani," in which devout Shiite Moslems cut open their shaved skulls during the holy mourning month of Moharam that began last week.

The rite, which is also widely practiced in Lebanon and Pakistan, "gives the impression that Shiite Moslems are superstitious and irrational," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

Moharam reaches its peak Monday and Tuesday, when mourners mark the 680 A.D. massacre of the imam Hossein and 71 of his followers in Kerbala, located in present-day Iraq.

In addition to Ghameh-Zani, participants in the ceremonies also beat and scratch themselves bloody.


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