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Shia Muslims around the world took part in traditional activities to mark one of the holiest days of the calendar, the Ashura, where the faithful take part in both fasting and bloodletting to commemorate the death and martyrdom of the grandson of Muhammad in the seventh century.

Not only do Muslim men engage in self-flagellation – beating and cutting themselves with knifes and blades to demonstrate their faith, but young boys are included in the bloody ceremony, as well.

Horrific photographs of the gory spectacle show young boys beating themselves and being beaten bloody in the public processions, emulating the men and brandishing dripping swords and knives as their mothers look on.

In one of the rites, the faithful cut their heads open with spears and swords. In another, men and boys use whips and chains made of sharpened blades to draw blood.

Some wear white robes to signify mourning and to better show the blood from their self-mutilation.

Followers of Islam view this drawing of blood as a show of respect.

Traditionally, Ashura processions and beatings take place in the Middle Eastern countries of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, India and Bahrain, but in England where Muslims are the fastest growing segment of the population, self-flagellation procession created traffic jams in the city of Manchester as the chanting procession drew attention and blocked streets.

Shias make up the second-largest denomination of the Muslim faith worldwide and the holy day marks the beginning of the centuries-old schism between the two Islamic sects.

Shias consider Hussein to be the rightful heir of Muhammad, whereas Sunnis believe Muhammad died without a successor and favor choosing an heir by election.

It is not known whether authorities in traditionally non-Muslim countries, such as England and the United States intervened to secure medical attention for children with gaping open slashes on their faces and heads, backs and chests.

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