A Libertarian Perspective on the Day of Ashura
By: Barry Belmont

I have a particular interest in religious thinking. I learn a lot about cultures, philosophies, and traditions through religion.

As I mentioned briefly in the Q&A section of my Anarcho-Capitalism II lecture, there can exist things outside of market forces existing within a society, such as religion. One can listen to the Pope, obey the Temple laws of Mormonism, peacefully meditate all day: none of these violate any of the axioms upon which libertarianism is founded.

In fact, it is generally held as a stock tenant of libertarian thought that the freedom of religion is undeniable, that people are allowed to worship in anyway they’d like. But I contend this is not necessarily so. I do not believe that the “freedom to believe whatever you want” trumps other freedoms, even though it might sound like it does.

By this I mean that there are certain rights that are more inviolable than the “right” to faith: the right to not be harmed for instance. In fact, insofar as rights exist, they must necessarily follow from the non-aggression axiom (which, along with the right to property, is the absolute bedrock upon which libertarianism is founded). Thus, I contend that if one’s practicing of religion negatively affects unwilling third parties, it is permissible to respond forcefully in self-defense.

The Day of Ashura is a special day for many Muslims. It has cultural and historical significance that are insightful and significant. I would contend that to understand much of the historicity of Islam (especially Shia Muslims), it is necessary to understand the role Husayn ibn Ali played in its early formation. [However, space does not permit an adequate description and you are encouraged to follow the link.] The Day of Ashura commemorates the martydom of Husayn ibn Ali as is celebrated across the globe.

In a few communities, mostly in Lebanon and Iraq, a blood ceremony is held to experience the “sacrificial ecstasy” of martydom. While discouraged by local leadership, it is nevertheless practiced:

[Warning: This video may not be appropriate for all people. View discretion is advised.]

In the video you may catch glimpses of some teens and children that also have blood on them. [Not seen, I don't believe, is that many young children and babies are also made to participate.] People’s head are cut by striking a sharp blade, razor, etc across the scalp repeatedly. People then beat their hands against their head to increase the pain and cause the blood to flow more.

As much as I wouldn’t wish to practice it myself, this sort of behavior amongst consenting adults, I guess I would have to accept. There is a claim that could be made that a form of “religious coercion” could be made, but let us return to that issue at a later time. But can any libertarian honestly claim that doing this to children is okay?

Children are incapable of voluntary action in any meaningful sense. They cannot consent. They cannot agree to this. What are we as libertarians supposed to do about this? If there is evil in this world, are we not responsible to seeing it eradicated? If not us, then who?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
View Comments Posted in Libertarianism, Religion
Tagged , ,
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=813259644 facebook-813259644

    Why are children not capable of voluntary consent, and adults are? At what point is someone no longer a child, how do we know this point, and why do special privileges come with it?

    Just some questions I'm posing. Libertarianism or Anarchism seems to be the most viable political position to me, but I still have lots of questions about it — especially about the right to property. I assume someone in the club could help me out with my questions at some point.

    Andrew H

  • http://unrforliberty.com/ Barry Belmont

    While the issue of the “rights of children” is a huge debate in and of itself, I think I can bastardize just enough of it to try to get my point across.

    Clearly adults (with a few exceptions) are capable of voluntary action. Obvious. And just as clearly babies are not. Somewhere in between people develop the ability to make conscious choices. There is no line we can point to and cross to become consenting adults.

    However, Rothbard makes a great case for a child's ability to “homestead” their rights and thus become a consensual adult. To put it simply, he claims that once a child (probably a teen) is able to take care of themselves, indeed once they are able to claim their rights, they can become capable of asserting them. It seems semi-tautological, but it's fairly intuitive: if you aren't able stand, you probably aren't able to walk.

    It's the kinda the same thing with rights.


    I'm not nearly as eloquent as Rothbard is on this issue. I urge you to check out his opinion in The Ethics of Liberty, which I believe is the clearest explanation of the rights of children: http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/fourteen.asp.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=813259644 facebook-813259644

    Thanks for the link, I imagine it will shed light on some issues I have with libertarianism.

  • Stevebilliter

    There is a spiritual power behind this bloodletting and fanaticism; the Bible calls him Satan, the fallen cherub that was tossed out of heaven. He delights in war and bloodshed destroying as much of God’s creation as he can;
    Rev 12:7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
    Rev 12:8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

    Rev 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.Rev 12:17 And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

blog comments powered by Disqus