In Pakistan, Upcoming Processions Guard Against Extremism

“Muslims across Asia will be commemorating this week the most tragic episode in the history of Islam – the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson Imam Hussain and his companions and family at the hands of the forces of Yazid, the then-ruler of the Muslim empire. The event is observed in South Asia, especially in Pakistan, through very big gatherings and processions on Muharram 10th (falling on Dec. 17) attended mostly by Shia Muslims though many Sunni Muslims also participate. Discussions revolve around condemning oppression, authoritarianism, injustice and bigotry -- which were the hallmarks of Yazid -- and honoring Imam Hussain, who decided to defy Yazid and sacrificed everything he had for the cause of justice in a heroic manner,” says Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Fellow Hassan Abbas. “In past years these processions in Pakistan (and in Iraq) have been attacked by Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, and there is a serious danger of such attacks in the coming days as well. Yazid is clearly is one of the most inspiring figures for modern day Muslim extremists -- and all the more reason that Imam Hussain's sacrifice and cause deserve more recognition within the larger Muslim world.”

Hassan is in New York. To arrange an interview, contact the Asia Society communications department at 212-327-9271 or