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For Shiites, Ashoura rite a touchstone of their faith

Women dressed in black robes wailed and thumped their chests, and the men shouted “Ya, Hussein!” Sweat poured from the face of Imam Ali Husaini Farqalita as he retold the story every Shiite Muslim knows by heart. In the parched desert of what is now Iraq, Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, was martyred by Sunni Muslim armies, giving rise to the separate Shiite sect of Islam. It all took place more than 1,300 years ago. But for Chicago’s small Shiite community–and millions of believers, from Iraq to the Indian subcontinent and even the Caribbean–it could have happened only yesterday. For 10 days, the faithful relive the passion of Hussein’s death at the hands of his oppressors–the defining moment of what it means to be a minority Shiite Muslim in a world dominated by Sunnis. Culminating their mourning ritual on the 10th day, generally known as Ashoura, members of the Chicago community will march Tuesday from the Daley Center to Michigan Avenue and back. For each of 10 previous nights in a small Northwest Side mosque, Farqalita and other imams recounted for a spellbound audience the exploits and suffering of Hussein, who died, abandoned by friends and supporters, to defend his family’s succession to Muhammad as the head of the Muslim community. Full Story

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