In what is thought to be a legal precedent, a Muslim man has been found guilty of child cruelty after forcing two boys to flog themselves during a religious ritual.
A jury at Manchester Crown Court found Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, guilty of two counts of child cruelty for his actions in January 2007. The two boys, aged 13 and 15, were forced to beat themselves with a zanjeer, a flail of chains with five curved blades attached.
Zanjeers are used in a ritual known as Ashura during the Shia month of Muharram, when followers flog themselves to commemorate the death of a central figure in their faith.
The boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were at a community centre in the Levenshulme suburb of Manchester, where they were taking part in the ritual. Several men were beating themselves when Zaidi started flogging himself. But soon he was beating himself with such ferocity that community elders had to calm him down.
Zaidi then asked the two boys to beat themselves instead. The elders again had to intervene when the boys began to badly cut their backs. They were taken to hospital and the police were called. The court heard the boys did want to beat themselves, but not under duress.
Zaidi will be sentenced on 24 September.