September 25, 2008 / 11:06 AM / 9 years ago

UK convicts Muslim man for ceremonial teen flailing

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A Muslim, convicted of child cruelty after encouraging two boys to flail themselves during a religious ceremony, was given a 26-week suspended jail term on Wednesday.

Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, of Eccles, Manchester in northern England, had pushed the boys into whipping themselves with chains fitted with curved blades at the ends during an annual Shi‘ite Muslim ceremony.

The boys, aged 13 and 15, needed hospital treatment after their mother found them suffering from several deep wounds on their backs and multiple slash wounds.

Zaidi had used the Zangeer Zani flail on himself during the ceremony at a Manchester center in January, before being stopped by other members of the Muslim community. He then encouraged the boys to flagellate themselves instead.

Community members stepped in again to help the youngsters.

Zaidi was found guilty of two counts of child cruelty at Manchester Crown Court in August. He was given a 26-week prison sentence suspended for a year, the Press Association reported.

“I reject the suggestion that they were forced to participate, although I consider it likely that the fervor of events is also likely to have affected their wish to participate,” said Judge Robert Atherton.

“It should be clearly understood by everyone that the jury’s verdict was not a comment upon that ceremony and no-one should misinterpret it as being such.”

Zaidi was also banned from allowing or encouraging anyone under the age of 16 to beat themselves during the next 12 months.

After his conviction, the General Secretary of the Jaffria Islamic Center said there had been similar previous cases which had not been brought to court.

“We have to take into account people’s beliefs and their rights, and we will respect them,” he said in a statement.

”But we are not above the law and we never will be and working with the authorities is the best chance we’ve got to prevent any harm being brought against any children.

“The best way of achieving our aims now is to try and understand the law better and work within the law to move forward.”

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato

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