Mass self-flaggelation for the Muslim holiday Ashura

Volokh, Eugene VOLOKH at
Tue Jan 22 10:46:57 PST 2008

	A blog reader asked about this; my guess is that there aren't
any generally applicable laws barring the public drawing of blood in the
first instance, but if there were, it seems to me this would raise some
interesting questions under state statutory or constitutional rules that
provide some heightened scrutiny for burdens on religious observance.
(Note that New York courts have adopted a sort of intermediatish
scrutiny under the state religious freedom guarantee.)  But I'd never
heard of this practice -- does anyone know whether it is religiously
mandated, not mandated but religiously encouraged, or (to the extent
these distinctions can be effectively drawn) merely a part of a cultural
tradition that accompanies the religious holiday?  Thanks,



Hi Prof. Volokh--

I wonder if you'd be willing to address on the Volokh Conspiracy the
legality/illegality(?) of the mass flagellations that are part of the
Muslim holiday Ashura, which is occurring this week.  Specifically, some
really gruesome photos of a public celebration in Queens, New York have
appeared online:

I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that having a large group of people
draw blood from each other is a huge public health hazard.  How far does
freedom of religion go?

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