Shia man guilty of child cruelty

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Devout Muslim forced young boys to beat themselves

A DEVOUT Muslim was found guilty of child cruelty last month in a British legal first after forcing two boys to beat themselves during a religious ceremony.

The jury at Manchester Crown Court found 44-year-old Syed Mustafa Zaidi guilty of two counts of child cruelty.

The boys, aged 13 and 15, were forced to beat themselves with a zanjeer zani, an implement containing five curved blades, during a ceremony to commemorate the death of a Shia Muslim spiritual leader.

Zaidi, of Station Road, Eccles, Salford, also flogged himself during the ceremony at a community centre in Levenshulme, Manchester, on January 19.

The boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted they wanted to beat themselves, but not under duress and not using Zaidi’s zanjeer zani.

Both boys also admitted they had flogged themselves with a smaller zanjeer zani from the age of six in Pakistan.

Zaidi admitted he had asked the boys if they wanted to beat themselves and that he allowed them to use his zanjeer zani.

He denied his actions were wrong, saying: “This is a part of our religion.”

He said the 15-year-old boy had performed a “perfect matam” and that it was not a “stitching matam” because he didn’t sustain heavy cuts.

He told the jury: “It was an emotional time and the children were happy, they asked for it. No one forced anyone.”

The boys both received multiple lacerations to their backs, mainly superficial, with several deeper cuts.

After the ceremony the boys went home to their mother, who noticed several deep wounds on their backs, and multiple slash wounds.

She took them to Manchester Royal Infirmary where they were treated and the matter was reported to the police.

Superintendent Nadeem Butt from the Metropolitan Division said: “This man not only abused the vulnerability of these children but also went against the wishes of his own community, as well as knowingly breaking the law.

“The sensitivities this case raises – both legal and cultural – are significant. We are aware of the community’s concerns about how this case could be portrayed, and have been working closely with community leaders throughout the process.”

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