This year we've had three holidays (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) due to an incident that occurred about 1400 years ago. Ever since I was a kid, I've wondered why some people go berserk in this month and kill those who don't share their beliefs. 

As boys, we liked watching the beating of chests and the deliberate injuring of backs (with iron chains) by some people. I still remember the face of a woman who beat her chest continuously while swaying to and fro. I heard later that people like her were paid to hurt themselves. I can well believe it, very few would deliberately put themselves at risk for free.

I remember a dance which the Makranis of Karachi would participate in. Kids would mimic them, pretending they had knives in their hands which they would thrust into their chests, the way Makranis did. Then we would go to Karachi's main street in those days (Bunder Road) where we would see what are called "alams" and "tazias" going towards the sea for immersion (I've heard there's a Hindu festival called "Dassehr" which is similar to Ashura).

Even though I've read many books on the Shia faith and have interacted with many of them (including one who used to address a "majlis" or gathering in English), I've never been able to understand why they (and some Sunnis as well) have to hold processions on these three days. Mind you, there's a great risk in being part of those processions, as die-hard opponents try their best to set off bombs to kill or injure the participants. 

Oh well, to each his own. Who am I to criticize someone for his or her beliefs? I know Sunnis who fast , and who think it's a heinous sin to enjoy themselves in the first ten months of Muharram (and I'm sure there are some who refrain from having sex as well, although no one has admitted it so far). 

Maybe a time will come (certainly not in my lifetime) when the two major sects of Islam will learn to live in peace.