Thursday, October 2, 2008
7:40pm UK, Wednesday August 27, 2008 Sky News
A devout Muslim who forced boys to beat themselves with blades has been found guilty of child cruelty.
The boys were pressured into hitting themselves with an implement with five blades, called a "zanjeer zani", at a religious ceremony.
The two youngsters, aged 13 and 15, admitted they wanted to beat themselves, but not under duress and not using the blades.
"This is a part of our religion."
The younger boy said he saw Zaidi flogging himself with the zanjeer zani before washing his blood from it and handing it to the older boy.
He said Zaidi was pulling him and pushing him, telling people "this is a sad moment and look he's not doing it".
Zaidi tried to force the boy's t-shirt off and attempted to make him use the knife on himself.
The younger boy described how the 15-year-old lad "swung it once or twice and said 'I don't want to do it anymore'".
The boys both received multiple lacerations to their backs with several deeper cuts.
A film of the ceremony broadcast on television showed Zaidi beating himself until his back was bloody and cut.
Many other men at the event flogged themselves as well.
Zaidi denied his actions were wrong, saying: "This is a part of our religion."
He told the jury: "It was an emotional time and the children were happy, they asked for it. No one forced anyone."
Two days before the ceremony Zaidi was told that under 16s were not permitted to flog themselves.
Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Carol Jackson said: "The CPS wishes to make it clear that this prosecution was not an attack upon the practices or ceremonies of Shia Muslims."
The Ashura ceremony takes place during the first month of the Islamic calendar and commemorates the death of the grandson of the Prophet.
The ruling of child cruelty against Zaidi is a first in the UK.