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Wednesday, May 6, 1998 Published at 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK


Kabul's Muslims remember religious leader
image: [ In Pakistan, Shia Muslims beat themselves with knives to mourn Hussain ]
In Pakistan, Shia Muslims beat themselves with knives to mourn Hussain

Shia Muslims have been marking a special day in the Muslim calendar, the anniversary of the death in battle of Imam Hussain, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad. BBC correspondent William Reeve sends this report from Kabul.

The anniversary of the death in battle of Hussain more than 1,300 years ago can be an emotive time for Muslims. But this year the day, a public holiday, has passed off peacefully as is normal in Afghanistan.

It is a day marked by all Muslims, but especially Shia Muslims. The Shia community in Kabul have been holding functions and driving in convoys around the city without hindrance from the predominantly Sunni Taleban authorities.

Thousands of Kabulis went to the city's main graveyard at Shuhada-e-Salaheen behind the old fort of Bala Hissar. As a traditional custom they visited the graves of their relatives and the shrines of two famous Mujaheddin, Tamim and Jabar Ansar who died fighting for Islam when it first reached Afghanistan.

The main Shia ceremony was held not far away in the old city at the Tahir or Shia place of worship of Chindawal. Here, thousands of Shias, mostly Hazaras and many of them women, came to mark the day.

Speakers included the Taleban's main spokesman in Kabul, Mullah Amir Khan Mottaqi. He stressed that both Sunnis and Shias are free to perform their religious rituals.

Later, a convoy of Shia Muslims drove around the capital in taxis and minibuses. Elsewhere in the city children were carrying trays of sweet rice to give to neighbours.

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