Monday, January 21, 2008


I had no idea that so many people, especially in Holland, got so exited about my little Ashura video (see post below). This, huh, cinematic masterpiece, is currently ranked as the 8th most watched video on Youtube (in section: News and Politics). More people have watched Ashura than Larry Kings interview with some UFO nutters (currently ranked 13th).

A couple of points though:

- Many muslim-haters in the West watched my video, saw the blood and decided: These guys must be f***** insane! Yes, Ashura is pretty bloody, but it has been around for 1400 years. When you are so into muslim-bashing and the Clash of Civillizations - I find it pretty f***** insane you did not know about Ashura.

- Ever visited concerts, rave parties, disco's in Holland or the rest of Europe? Well, 6000 people - in trance - dancing like weirdo's. Shi'ites just perform the ritual once a year, most muslim-bashers every Friday- and Saturday night. And believe me, the amount of vomit at these parties exceeds the amount of blood during Ashura.

- The Ashura boys in Nabatiye do NOT hit their heads until it starts bleeding. No! What actually happens is this: A friend or family member uses a knife and makes a little cut on the top of the head. This hurts as much as receiving an injection hurts. The immediate result though is that the blood gushes out and before you can say Haile Selassie your face is drenched in blood. So it is not painful at all. Yes, some participants faint or need medical care, but this is due to blood loss, not pain.

- It seems bloody but Ashura is absolutely non-violent. And nobody forces you to participate. In Nabatiye, I never felt even remotely threatened by the people. Everybody was polite and friendly. Compare that to attending a soccer match in Europe....

- More and more people in the West can't deal with globalization. Terrified by change and scared of everything alien, many only react with hatred and condemnation to anything outside their own reality. Of course, Ashura has been going on for 1400 years. But until recently, nobody in the West ever knew about it, heard of it or saw it. With TV and the Internet it is all different now. Ashura, suddenly, on your computer in your living room in Amsterdam, with Muslims living around the corner???? No context, no knowledge. The primal response: This is sick, these people must be mad...and terrorists of course.

The funny thing though is that many people in the Middle East would respond with equal disgust, or at least surprise, the moment I would ask them to watch the following Dutch carnival song called Ko zak door! or Ko get drunk!.

Or what about this video: Vomiting during the LOVE Parade in Essen, Germany. You still think Ashura is strange?

Every society has its own weird stuff. In some places it is called Ashura, somewhere else carnival, in a third spot the Love Parade.

Whatever. As long as people aren't killing each other or forcing others to join in - it seems all OK to me.

The magic of modernity is to be able to realize that the earth rotates at a dazzling speed. The reason we do not fall off is not because we stand still or try to hide. The only reason we survive is because its speed is constant.

Harald Doornbos


ella said...


Great post.
Europe in Middle Ages had flagellants and there are still parades in Spain and Italy although without shedding of blood.
Love parade in Toronto is really weird. The one in Essen must be even more weird.
Football matches in Poland are great....and some are as bloody as this video of Ashura.
As for Ashura - I prefer people mourning death of Husayn to people like Nasrallah. Nasrallah did not(probably) cut himself during Ashura but he is way more bloody than majority of these people in Nabatiya.

zerolando said...

Hello Harald.

Personally I think that if they're not hurting anyone or gravely hurting themselves , let them be in Peace. There are far more urgent issues then this. But I have to admit that it still bothers me , when I see children being dragged to participate though. I would have preferred that kids be kept away from bloody games like this until maybe they've grown up a bit more and have a better understanding of the true meaning behind this type of mourning. As for the YouTube comments you've received. I think its very easy to rush into calling them superficial, but lets not forget that comments like these are ,usually first time impressions spoken with no preceding thought process beforehand. The Point is , even though I highly disagree with the content of these comments as much as you do, I still do find them, understandable though because it has to do with the inability of most people to digest highly convergent cultural contexts. This is an instance of a typical(everyone falls into this trap) cultural misunderstanding. It reminded me of King Richard the Lion Heart when he first marched with the intent of conquering Jerusalem and how he was convinced that the arab muslims were a barbarian population. His opinion soon changed as he got to meet Saphadin, the younger brother of Saladin, and they became best friends. King Richard soon realised that the people he once thought of as Barbarians were actually as much human as he was.

ella said...

Saphadin i.e. al Adil the first may not have been barbarian, however he did suppressed the revolt of Christian copts in Egypt and hanged 3000 of them. He promoted good relations with Crusader states, however he was a general in Arab army.
There may have been personal friendship between al Adil and Richard Lion Heart but still, they were an enemies most of the time.
So you see everything is relative.

pina said...

This blog makes you wait for more and more. Love your perspective harryzzz.

RML said...


Children have always been dragged into the causes of their parents. I can still remember the huge anti war and anti nuclear arms demonstrations here in Amsterdam in the late 70s/early 80s. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that a quarter of all those people were under aged children, many/most not even of high school age.

Children are also going to sports games, cultural events, religious ceremonies, etc., without quite knowing for whom they are cheering or why they participate in the event or ceremony.

Children are baptised before they can speak, and we can safely state that they don't have a clue about the reasons and doctrines behind baptism.

Harald Doornbos said...

thanks for responses, keep on posting...

zerolando said...


Your generalized perception of the relation that existed between King Richard and Saphadin seems to lack a realistic perspective and fails in taking into consideration the historic events as they occurred at that time and the pressure inflicted upon them by their peers and/or duties. They had to make a choice between their personal opinions and their roles as Kings/Generals at that time.
Yes Saphadin and King Richard were enemies most of the time but that’s simply because they only knew each other briefly and because at the end of the day they had a responsibility toward the people they represented and the men they led and the causes they thought they were fighting for, which took precedence over their personal relation. And that is understandable. Lets Not Forget that, after meeting Saphadin, King Richard tried to avoid going into war by planning to get his sister married to Saphadin , because Christians and muslims could end up jointly governing Jerusalem while avoiding war. Of course his plan failed because both his sister and Saphadin himself refused to marry someone from another religion or convert (which was their right). When Afterwards King Richard did lead a campaign towards Jerusalem in the winter, it was with a big doubt that he did it. He wasn’t convinced at all. It was peer pressure and the complaint of his men which left him no other choice. After all they all came all the way from England to recover Jerusalem, and a plain sympathy between K. Richard and Saphadin wouldn’t be enough to make them go back. when only 10kms away from the city he met Crusaders who were living in Palestine and they advised him to go back because they as they themselves described it : most crusaders leave towards the homeland once Jerusalem is conquered and at the end of the day , we always end up losing it back to the muslim arabs. At that Moment K. Richard became more and more convinced that this campaign to free Jerusalem had no meaning and ordered his men to go back to the city where the English HQ was. This decision cost him a lot of men , some who died from cold and thousands who fled him in disgust because they felt he was betraying the Christian cause. At the same time the only reason which led Saladin to attack the English a brief moment after, was because Saladin was becoming more and more isolated among his own peers and arab generals,Peer Pressure along with other secondary reasons led him to attack the English troops when a part of them led by K. Richard left to England so that K. Richard can reclaim his throne.
The point is these men did nothing unusual when they had to make a choice between their position and their personal opinion the same way we ourselves as normal people are required or pushed to make a choice between business and personal and so on. You might not think of them highly as Persons or human beings but that’s certainly not the basis upon which you judge them as Kings and war Generals.
In Conclusion, oversimplifying things and ignoring context never leads to a balanced truth.

ella said...


I thank you for detailed explanation, but what you, so carefully, explained does not contradict my points -
1) they were, personally, friends,
2) their causes took precedence over their personal relation

Richard the Lion Heart marched with an intent of re-conquering Jerusalem. That was the reason why he became isolated when he changed his opinion regarding his aims.

Al Adil and Salah ad Din attacked Richard because majority of generals and majority of the muslim army thought they have right to Jerusalem - by way of previous conquest and the tenets of their religion. And that was the reason why al Adil was isolated among their peers

As for barbarians - Richard the Lion Heart before coming to palestine looked at muslim as barbarians. Al Adil and Salah ad Din looked at the Crusaders as barbarian invaders of the place they thought they have right to be in.

In conclusion, if there was oversimplification in my post then I guess you did not notice that we are writing on the blog which talks about politics and not about history. I could also say that you were oversimplifying some things, omitting different ones and stressing still some others to make your point.
If that was a historical discussion most, if not all, diverging opinions would be supported by this or that historical reference. But in reality it is not, is it? It is discussion regarding inability of most people to digest highly convergent/divergent cultural contexts.

zerolando said...


I guess I am not used to your writing style, thus I might have misunderstood the explanation you gave. Apparently our opinions are not too divergent. And yes we did go off topic, but thats the beauty of it sometimes.
good day

m.p. said...

from culture to politics to history and even delving into anthropology. well, the comments over the last days were quite a ride. i enjoyed it.

onix said...

It's like television and drugs.
a lightshow or a bloodshow. fainting of bloodloss. For my part it is ok as long as they don't have anything better. A collective quest for a fainting of bloodloss however only supports the legalisation of drugs. The differences are not so great.