The first day of Muharram, or “Islamic New Year” is a public holiday in Iraq, recognised by Shiite and Sunni Muslims alike.
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The whole month of Muharram is considered the holiest of all Islamic months, even more than Ramadan, and is a time of intense prayer and reflection for many in Iraq.
But Shiites and Sunnis celebrate the days of Muharram somewhat differently as well.
There are many Shiite parades during Muharram, and Shiites fast on Ashura (10 Muharram) to mourn the death of Muhammad’s grandson Husayn ibn Ali. They may also go on pilgrimage to the Imam Husayn Shrine at Ali’s grave site.
Sunnis, the minority in Iraq, may fast during Muharram as well. If they fast on 10 Muharram, it will be based on Moses’ victory over Pharaoh on this day according to the Hadiths rather than Ibn Ali’s martyrdom.