Shia man escapes jail over child whipping case


Syed Mustafa Zaidi given suspended sentence

A MUSLIM man who was found guilty of encouraging two boys to whip themselves as part of a religious ceremony has escaped jail.

Syed Mustafa Zaidi was found guilty of child cruelty last month after the two boys, aged 13 and 15, told a court he had forced them to flagellate themselves with a bladed zanjeer whip as part of a traditional Shia Muslim ritual.

A jury at Manchester Crown Court convicted Zaidi of two counts of child cruelty, but in sentencing yesterday he was handed a suspended sentence.

Judge Robert Atherton, at Manchester Crown Court, said he “rejected” the claim that the two boys were forced to take part in the ceremony, adding “I consider it likely that the fervour of events is also likely to have affected their wish to participate.”

The court heard the two boys admit they wanted to beat themselves, but not under duress and not using Zaidi’s zanjeer during the ceremony earlier this year.

The boys started to whip themselves, but other community members intervened to stop them.

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.

Zaidi, of Station Road, Eccles, was given a 26-week sentence, suspended for 12 months.

A second order which will also last for 12 months means that if Zaidi is found to have allowed or encouraged anyone under the age of 16 to beat themselves he could be returned to court for sentencing.

Superintendent Paul Savill from Greater Manchester Police said the force had implemented a working code of conduct for adults about involving children in the self-flagellation ritual since Zaidi was convicted.

Mr Safdar Zia, general secretary of the Jaffria Islamic Centre said while the ceremony could not be eliminated, mosque leaders would now work within the law. 

“This sort of practice has been going on throughout the Islamic world for centuries and although there have been cases like this in the past they haven’t been brought to court,” he said.

“We cannot eliminate this practice, but we can and will work to a code of practice so that the children don’t get hurt, the law isn’t broken, and the people who do want to take part don’t get prosecuted.

“We have to take into account people’s beliefs and their rights, and we will respect them. But we are not above the law and we never will be and working with the authorities is the best chance we’ve got to prevent any harm being brought against any children.

“The best way of achieving our aims now is to try and understand the law better and work within the law to move forward.”


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