On Londonist we try to include as many different aspects of London as we can: it’s not all news, entertainment and parody….sometimes we aim for edification, things that we genuinely find absorbing or surprising. Things that make us go ‘ooh-er’, or even ‘gosh’ (‘cept to our chagrin we can’t say it quite the way that Joanna Lumley can).
On Saturday afternoon, then, something both dramatic and interesting is happening. A march, from Speakers Corner to a tucked away corner of Notting Hill. A procession of Shi’ia Muslims mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed in 680AD. For this is Ashura, the most important day during the month of Moharram – 40 days of deeply religious and cathartic grieving, which at its most passionate heights see mourners practising self-flagellation. It is strongly reminiscent of the Lenten marches of the penitents in Catholic countries. In Iran (the largest Shi’ia country), things grind to a halt for the three days before Ashura, and there are re-enactments of the slaying, and huge, huge marches of wailing men (and women) beating their chests. The spectacle in Notting Hill is not likely to be as large (up to 5000 are expected), but set against a backdrop of Hyde Park and Starbucks, the procession still leaves a stark impression.
The organiser in London is the Universal Islamic Centre (known as Majma to its friends) in Penzance Place – a benevolent and welcoming institution which works not only as an informal mosque, but as a strong and vibrant community centre for the more religiously minded among the Iranian ex-pat population in London.
Londonist – once again, your key to hidden London….