It Gives Shia Islam a Gruesome and Hideous Image
The word barbaric is an understatement. Barbaric people may be cruel and uncivilized, however they generally do not cut and mutilate their own bodies in extremely bloody public demonstrations.
There is nothing else in the whole of existence, which gives the Shias such a bad reputation as these rituals do. Millions of dollars have been spent by the enemies of Shi’ism (and Islam as a whole) to ruin its image and to spread lies about it. However all those efforts are eclipsed by these unnatural actions that some Shias perform. It is not only non-Shias who are repulsed and disturbed by these rituals, many Shias are also extremely repulsed.
It is ironic that Shias have had to struggle for centuries to counter false propaganda and to remove misconceptions about themselves; only to find that a group from amongst themselves heavily damages their reputation. The Wahhabis may falsely claim that Shias believe in another Quran, believe that Imam Ali (a) is God or believe that the wife of the Holy Prophet (S) committed adultery, however all of those are mere claims from insincere people without any supporting evidence. In contrast, the Shias who perform acts of bodily mutilation give ammunition to those who wish to malign the religion.
Often, when people wish to mock and defame the Shias, they tend to show images of these blood shedding rituals. The mass media and the Internet are replete with these images. Type in the word ‘Ashura’ into a search engine and see the images that appear. Is this the first piece of information that a non-muslim must obtain about the struggle of Imam Hussain (a)? Did Imam Hussain (a) die only for his message to become immediately associated with this unsightly innovation?
It is not surprising that many people are distressed by these rituals since the human brain is naturally averse to self-mutilation and finds blood repulsive due to its unhygienic nature. The bad image portrayed by acts such as Tatbir and Zanjeer is the primary reason given by the Maraja for their prohibition.
Some of the promoters of blood flagellation astonishingly deny that the rituals are considered repulsive. To see the reality, they only need to read these comments made about blood flagellation by the readers of the Guardian Newspaper.