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How Shiite Islam reached Tanzania, and Ashoura processions became an annual tradition

A variety of cultural performances evoking intense emotions occur during the Islamic month of Muharram. A scholar observed the processions on Ashoura in…



Shiite women prepare to march in the inaugural Ashoura procession in a neighborhood of Arusha, Tanzania, in 2017. Mara Leichtman , CC BY

Each year, the largest contemporary Muslim pilgrimage takes place in Iraq to remember Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson. Before the pandemic, this event reportedly drew more than 30 million people, but in recent years participation declined to more than 14 million. This procession from Najaf to Karbala, where Hussein is buried, commemorates the 40th day after his martyrdom, a typical length of mourning in Muslim traditions. In 2022, this falls on Sept. 17.

Following the death of the prophet in A.D. 632, a dispute developed over who would be his rightful successor. This became the source of the Sunni-Shiite divide. For Shiites, Hussein was their third Imam, a beloved spiritual and political leader.

After many years of war, the Umayyad dynasty, which lasted from 661 to 750, established its rule over the Middle East and North Africa. The inhabitants of Kufa, a garrison town in Iraq, were among those who defied the Umayyads and invited Hussein to lead them in revolt. But Hussein and his army were outnumbered and suffered a brutal defeat during the Battle of Karbala. Hussein was killed in 680 on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram, a day known as Ashoura.

Scholars have long been fascinated by the variety of cultural performances evoking intense emotions that occur during Muharram. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Shiites have adapted the commemoration to connect Islamic history with the present and to highlight the need for social justice for Muslim populations today.

Public commemorations take place in other parts of the world as well. As a scholar of Shiite communities in Africa, I have studied the processions in northern Tanzania. These are usually scheduled according to the Islamic lunar calendar to fall on the ninth and 10th days of Muharram.

The history of Shiite Islam in East Africa

In Tanzania, Shiite Islam first arrived with the Khoja trading community, a caste from India that converted from Hinduism to Islam. Khojas began to settle in East Africa in the 19th century due to drought, famines and religious persecution in their homeland.

A map of Tanzania that shows its regions in different colors.
Map of Tanzania. Gregor Aisch via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Initially, Shiite Islam was associated with Asian Muslims, whereas African Muslims were predominantly Sunni. Shiite Islam was slow to develop in East Africa.

In 1979, the Iranian government of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic state headed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that rejected Western influence. This cataclysmic event, known as the Iranian revolution, led to a political resurgence for Muslims globally, including in Africa. Muslims of all denominations were inspired by this first successful Islamic revolution since the time of the prophet.

Yet some Sunni Muslims around the world began to inquire about Shiite Islam, the faith’s minority branch, in part because of how they saw Khomeini and his Islamic state depicted in Western media. Some African Sunnis even became Shiites after extensive personal study that compared the primary texts of the various schools of Islamic thought. A 2012 Pew Research Center report put the percentage of Sunnis in Tanzania at 40% of Muslims and Shiites at 20%. Reasons for changing one’s religious affiliation were many. Ultimately, those attracted by Shiite Islam were convinced by its genealogical authority, since it follows the guidance of the family of the prophet. Many perceived Shiite jurisprudence to provide clearer answers to the religious questions they had long been asking.

One Shiite organization in Tanzania, Ahl al-Bayt Centre, or ABC, was established in 1986. With the support of Gulf Shiites, the nongovernmental organization expanded its influence. Now headquartered in a large complex in the environs of Arusha, a city in northern Tanzania, ABC developed into a prominent African-led Shiite network.

Commemorating Muharram in Tanzania

Khojas have been marching in Ashoura processions for the past century in what is today the United Republic of Tanzania. Haji Ali Nathoo was the longtime president of the Khoja Shiite community in Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean archipelago off the coast of Tanzania. He requested from the British colonial government that the 10th day of Muharram, called Ashoura, be a public holiday. This was granted in 1920.

Processions became an annual tradition in Zanzibar and Tanga, a port city in northeast Tanzania. They later gained popularity in urban areas with large mosques, such as Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s coastal capital and a major commercial center; Arusha; and Moshi, a town near the Kenyan border in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Processions require a permit from the government, as roads are closed and police protection is provided.

Circle of Shiite men beating their chests in lamentation
Ashoura procession in Arusha, Tanzania, 2022. Zaynu Yusuf Dachi, CC BY

The Khoja Shiite community in Dar es Salaam, the largest in East Africa, constructs a large outdoor display during Muharram. This attracts community members and educates the general public about the Battle of Karbala. In Arusha, a smaller diorama of the battle scene is displayed outside the gates of the Khoja mosque.

Black signs with red, yellow or white lettering decorate mosques and main roads through town. One sign refers to Imam Hussein as “The inspiration for mankind to strive for Justice and Equality.”

A model representing the battle scene at Karbala with three-dimensional figures.
Diorama of battle scene at Karbala displayed in front of Khoja mosque in Arusha, Tanzania, 2022. Mara Leichtman, CC BY

Many Shiites attend various “majalis,” or gatherings, and organizations stagger the timing of their events as not to overlap. Food is always provided, ranging from small bags of sugar or rice to biscuits or a cooked meal served in the mosque. This food is thought to bring religious blessings to those who consume it.

Some Tanzanians donate blood, an accepted practice today among Shiites worldwide in remembrance and solidarity with Imam Hussein on the day he died. Blood donations have begun to replace self-flagellation, a blood-letting ritual performed by many Shiite men in order to re-enact and partake in the suffering of the Imam’s family during the Battle of Karbala.

Indian and African Shiite communities usually commemorate religious holidays separately in their respective mosques.

During COVID-19, Khoja mosques conducted religious events online for two years. They are back in person in 2022, while maintaining a hybrid option. The Ahl al-Bayt Centre community continued to gather throughout the pandemic.

Reclaiming the procession for African Tanzanians

I have twice attended the processions in Arusha – during September and October 2017 and more recently again in August 2022. Shiites march through the center of town from the Indian charitable hospital to the Khoja mosque.

Khojas carry staffs called “alam” that signify the battle standards used at Karbala. Decorated with various motifs representing Imam Hussein’s family, these symbolic flags are draped with red-splotched shrouds evoking bloody battle losses. Khoja mosques feature replicas of Middle Eastern mosques where Shiite Imams are buried; these are also paraded in the procession.

Since 2017, Arusha’s African Shiites have been organizing separate processions, which as an anthropologist I also joined. They aimed to reach communities in the outskirts of town and centered their march around African Shiite mosques – not Khoja community landmarks in the city center.

A procession on the streets of Arusha in Tanzania where most people are dressed in black with white head caps.
Shiite sheikhs (in white headdresses) lead an Ashoura procession in Arusha, Tanzania, 2022. Zaynu Yusuf Dachi, CC BY

All dressed in black, the color of mourning, marchers carried signs predominantly written in Swahili announcing to the local population the virtues of Imam Hussein. Many men wore T-shirts printed for the procession. Some women and children wore headbands proclaiming “Labaik Ya Hussein” (I am here, O Hussein) or “Proud to be a Husseini.” Led by religious leaders, participants lectured through microphones, rhythmically beat their chests and recited mournfully beautiful Swahili-language “nudba” poetry written by the community about the Battle of Karbala.

As minority Muslims, not all African Shiite communities have the freedom or security to publicly proclaim their beliefs. In West Africa, in Sunni Muslim-majority Senegal, where I have long studied Shiite communities, Muharram is commemorated behind closed doors. In Nigeria, where public processions do take place, state security forces, long at odds with Nigerian Shiites, have attacked and killed participants.

In Tanzania, the government protects freedom of religion. And that is evident in the unique processions of the Indian and African religious communities sharing the peaceful message of Imam Hussein.

Mara Leichtman receives funding from the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs and the Center for Islam in the Contemporary World at Shenandoah University.

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Delivering aid during war is tricky − here’s what to know about what Gaza relief operations may face

The politics of delivering aid in war zones are messy, the ethics fraught and the logistics daunting. But getting everything right is essential − and…




Palestinians on the outskirts of Gaza City walk by buildings destroyed by Israeli bombardment on Oct. 20, 2023. AP Photo/Ali Mahmoud

The 2.2 million people who live in Gaza are facing economic isolation and experiencing incessant bombardment. Their supplies of essential resources, including food and water, are quickly dwindling.

In response, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged US$100 million in humanitarian assistance for the citizens of Gaza.

As a scholar of peace and conflict economics who served as a World Bank consultant during the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel, I believe that Biden’s promise raises fundamental questions regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid in a war zone. Political constraints, ethical quandaries and the need to protect the security of aid workers and local communities always make it a logistical nightmare.

In this specific predicament, U.S. officials have to choose a strategy to deliver the aid without the perception of benefiting Hamas, a group the U.S. and Israel both classify as a terrorist organization.


When aiding people in war zones, you can’t just send money, a development strategy called “cash transfers” that has become increasingly popular due to its efficiency. Sending money can boost the supply of locally produced goods and services and help people on the ground pay for what they need most. But injecting cash into an economy so completely cut off from the world would only stoke inflation.

So the aid must consist of goods that have to be brought into Gaza, and services provided by people working as part of an aid mission. Humanitarian aid can include food and water; health, sanitation and hygiene supplies and services; and tents and other materials for shelter and settlement.

Due to the closure of the border with Israel, aid can arrive in Gaza only via the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, will likely turn to its longtime partner on the ground, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, to serve as supply depots and distribute goods. That agency, originally founded in 1949 as a temporary measure until a two-state solution could be found, serves in effect as a parallel yet unelected government for Palestinian refugees.

USAID will likely want to tap into UNRWA’s network of 284 schools – many of which are now transformed into humanitarian shelters housing two-thirds of the estimated 1 million people displaced by Israeli airstrikes – and 22 hospitals to expedite distribution.

Map of Gaza and its neighbors
Gaza is a self-governing Palestinian territory. The narrow piece of land is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Israel and Egypt. PeterHermesFurian/iStock via Getty Images Plus


Prior to the Trump administration, the U.S. was typically the largest single provider of aid to the West Bank and Gaza. USAID administers the lion’s share of it.

Since Biden took office, total yearly U.S. assistance for the Palestinian territories has totaled around $150 million, restored from just $8 million in 2020 under the Trump administration. During the Obama administration, however, the U.S. was providing more aid to the territories than it is now, with $1 billion disbursed in the 2013 fiscal year.

But the White House needs Congress to approve this assistance – a process that requires the House of Representatives to elect a new speaker and then for lawmakers to approve aid to Gaza once that happens.


The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is a U.N. organization. It’s not run by Hamas, unlike, for instance, the Gaza Ministry of Health. However, Hamas has frequently undermined UNRWA’s efforts and diverted international aid for military purposes.

Hamas has repeatedly used UNRWA schools as rocket depots. They have repeatedly tunneled beneath UNRWA schools. They have dismantled European Union-funded water pipes to use as rocket fuselages. And even since the most recent violence broke out, the UNRWA has accused Hamas of stealing fuel and food from its Gaza premises.

Humanitarian aid professionals regularly have to contend with these trade-offs when deciding to what extent they can work with governments and local authorities that commit violent acts. They need to do so in exchange for the access required to help civilians under their control.

Similarly, Biden has had to make concessions to Israel while brokering for the freedom to send humanitarian aid to Gaza. For example, he has assured Israel that if any of the aid is diverted by Hamas, the operation will cease.

This promise may have been politically necessary. But if Biden already believes Hamas to be uncaring about civilian welfare, he may not expect the group to refrain from taking what they can.

Security best practices

What can be done to protect the security of humanitarian aid operations that take place in the midst of dangerous conflicts?

Under International Humanitarian Law, local authorities have the primary responsibility for ensuring the delivery of aid – even when they aren’t carrying out that task. To increase the chances that the local authorities will not attack them, aid groups can give “humanitarian notification” and voluntarily alert the local government as to where they will be operating.

Hamas has repeatedly flouted international norms and laws. So the question of if and how the aid convoy will be protected looms large.

Under the current agreement between the U.S., Israel and Egypt, the convoy will raise the U.N. flag. International inspectors will make sure no weapons are on board the vehicles before crossing over from Arish, Egypt, to Rafah, a city located on the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt.

The aid convoy will likely cross without militarized security. This puts it at some danger of diversion once inside Gaza. But whether the aid convoy is attacked, seized or left alone, the Biden administration will have demonstrated its willingness to attempt a humanitarian relief operation. In this sense, a relatively small first convoy bearing water, medical supplies and food, among other items, serves as a test balloon for a sustained operation to follow soon after.

If the U.S. were to provide the humanitarian convoy a military escort, by contrast, Hamas could see its presence as a provocation. Washington’s support for Israel is so strong that the U.S. could potentially be judged as a party in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

In that case, the presence of U.S. armed forces might provoke attacks on Gaza-bound aid convoys by Hamas and Islamic jihad fighters that otherwise would not have occurred. Combined with the mobilization of two U.S. Navy carrier groups in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, I’d be concerned that such a move might also stoke regional anger. It would undermine the Biden administration’s attempts to cool the situation.

On U.N.-approved missions, aid delivery may be secured by third-party peacekeepers – meaning, in this case, personnel who are neither Israeli nor Palestinian – with the U.N. Security Council’s blessing. In this case, tragically, it’s unlikely that such a resolution could conceivably pass such a vote, much less quickly enough to make a difference.

Topher L. McDougal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Diagnosis and management of postoperative wound infections in the head and neck region

“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]” Credit: 2023 Barbarewicz…



“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]”

Credit: 2023 Barbarewicz et al.

“The majority of wound infections often manifest themselves immediately postoperatively, so close followup should take place […]”

BUFFALO, NY- October 20, 2023 – A new research perspective was published in Oncoscience (Volume 10) on October 4, 2023, entitled, “Diagnosis and management of postoperative wound infections in the head and neck region.”

In everyday clinical practice at a department for oral and maxillofacial surgery, a large number of surgical procedures in the head and neck region take place under both outpatient and inpatient conditions. The basis of every surgical intervention is the patient’s consent to the respective procedure. Particular attention is drawn to the general and operation-specific risks. 

Particularly in the case of soft tissue procedures in the facial region, bleeding, secondary bleeding, scarring and infection of the surgical area are among the most common complications/risks, depending on the respective procedure. In their new perspective, researchers Filip Barbarewicz, Kai-Olaf Henkel and Florian Dudde from Army Hospital Hamburg in Germany discuss the diagnosis and management of postoperative infections in the head and neck region.

“In order to minimize the wound infections/surgical site infections, aseptic operating conditions with maximum sterility are required.”

Furthermore, depending on the extent of the surgical procedure and the patient‘s previous illnesses, peri- and/or postoperative antibiotics should be considered in order to avoid postoperative surgical site infection. Abscesses, cellulitis, phlegmone and (depending on the location of the procedure) empyema are among the most common postoperative infections in the respective surgical area. The main pathogens of these infections are staphylococci, although mixed (germ) patterns are also possible. 

“Risk factors for the development of a postoperative surgical site infection include, in particular, increased age, smoking, multiple comorbidities and/or systemic diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus type II) as well as congenital and/ or acquired immune deficiency [10, 11].”


Continue reading the paper: DOI: 

Correspondence to: Florian Dudde


Keywords: surgical site infection, head and neck surgery


About Oncoscience

Oncoscience is a peer-reviewed, open-access, traditional journal covering the rapidly growing field of cancer research, especially emergent topics not currently covered by other journals. This journal has a special mission: Freeing oncology from publication cost. It is free for the readers and the authors.

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Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan Makes the Poor Pay for the Rich

A year after the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, he presented a new scheme to the Department of Education…



A year after the Supreme Court struck down President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, he presented a new scheme to the Department of Education on Tuesday. While it is less aggressive than the prior plan, this proposal would cost hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, doing more harm than good. 

As the legendary economist Milton Friedman noted, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” 

Higher education in America is costly, and this “forgiveness” would make it worse. 

Signing up for potentially life-long student loans at a young age is too normalized. At the same time, not enough borrowers can secure jobs that offer adequate financial support to pay off these massive loans upon graduation or leaving college. These issues demand serious attention. But “erasing” student loans, as well-intentioned as it may be, is not the panacea Americans have been led to believe.

Upon closer examination, the President’s forgiveness plan creates winners and losers, ultimately benefiting higher-income earners the most. In reality, this plan amounts to wealth redistribution. To quote another top economist, Thomas Sowell described this clearly: “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.” 

Forgiving student loans is not the end of the road but the beginning of a trade-off for a rising federal fiscal crisis and soaring college tuition. 

When the federal government uses taxpayer funds to give student loans, it charges an interest rate to account for the cost of the loan. To say that all borrowers no longer have to pay would mean taxpayers lose along with those who pay for it and those who have been paying or have paid off their student loans.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, student debt forgiveness could cost at least $360 billion. 

Let’s consider that there will be 168 million tax returns filed this year. A simple calculation suggests that student loan forgiveness could add around $2,000 yearly in taxes per taxpayer, based on the CRFB’s central estimate. 

Clearly, nothing is free, and the burden of student loan forgiveness will be shifted to taxpayers.

One notable feature of this plan is that forgiveness is unavailable to individuals earning over $125,000 annually. In practice, this means that six-figure earners could have their debts partially paid off by lower-income tax filers who might not have even pursued higher education. This skewed allocation of resources is a sharp departure from progressive policy.

Data show that half of Americans are already frustrated with “Bidenomics.” 

Inflation remains high, affordable housing is a distant dream, and wages fail to keep up with soaring inflation. Introducing the potential of an additional $2,000 annual tax burden at least for those already struggling, mainly to subsidize high-income earners, adds insult to injury.

Furthermore, it’s vital to recognize that the burden of unpaid student loans should not fall on low-income earners or Americans who did not attend college. Incentives play a crucial role in influencing markets. 

By removing the incentive for student loan borrowers to repay their debts, we may encourage more individuals to pursue higher education and accumulate debt without the intention of paying it back. After all, why would they when it can be written off through higher taxes for everyone?

The ripple effect of this plan could be far-reaching. 

It may make college more accessible for some, opening the floodgates for students and the need for universities to expand and hire more staff, leading to even higher college tuition. This perverse incentive will set a precedent that will create a cycle of soaring tuition, which would counteract the original goal of making higher education more affordable.

While the intention behind President Biden’s student loan forgiveness may appear noble (in likelihood, it is a rent-seeking move), the results may prove detrimental to our nation’s economic stability and fairness. And if the debt is monetized, more inflation will result.

Forgiving student loans will exacerbate existing problems, with the brunt of the burden falling on lower-income Americans. Instead of improving the situation, it will likely create an intricate web of financial consequences, indirectly affecting the very people it aims to help. But that is the result of most government programs with good intentions.



Vance Ginn, Ph.D., is president of Ginn Economic Consulting, chief economist or senior fellow at multiple state thinks across the country, host of the Let People Prosper Show, and previously the associate director for economic policy of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, 2019-20. Follow him on @VanceGinn.


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