Description: This article explores the role of religion in political transnationalism using the case of the Shi'a Iraqi diaspora since 2003. The article focuses on three areas that capture important trends in Shi'a transnationalism and their implications for transnational Shi'a identity politics. These include Shi'a diasporic politics, transnational Shi'a civic activism, and the cultural production of Iraqi Shi'a identity through pilgrimages, rituals and new practices. It is argued that understanding Shi'a Islam and identity formation requires adopting a transnational lens. The evolution of Shi'a Islam is not only a result of the dictates of the Shi'a clerical centres, and how they influence Shi'a populations abroad, but also the transnational interrelationships and links to holy shrine cities, Shi'i national and international politics, humanitarianism and commemorations and rituals. The article demonstrates that Shi'a political transnationalism is unexceptional in that it echoes much of the literature on diasporic politics and development where diaspora involve themselves from afar in the politics and societies of their countries of origin. At the same time, it shows the exceptionalism of Shi'a diasporic movements, in that their motivations and mobilizations are contributing to the reification of sectarian geographical and social borders, creating a transnationalism that is defined by largely Shi'a networks, spaces, actors and causes. The case of Shi'a political transnationalism towards Iraq shows that this is increasing the distance between Shi'is and Iraq's other communities, simultaneously fragmenting Iraq's national unity while deepening Shi'a identity and politics both nationally and supra-nationally.
Description: Special issue of Contemporary Islam, vol. 13, no. 3 (2019) This special issue brings together most recent research on Shia Muslims in Britain. Edited by Oliver Scharbrodt, Reza Gholami and Sufyan Dogra (all University of Birmingham), the special issue includes six original research articles that cover different Shia communities across Britain, their local manifestations and transnational connections: from attitudes towards Islam among members of the Iranian diaspora, Iraqi and Iranian Shia networks in London and their transnational links, the role of ‘Ashura’ procession among Shia communities in Edinburgh, contestations around Shia religiosity among South Asian Shiis to identity discourses among young British-Iraqi Shiis. The special issue is the very first publication of this kind highlighting the particular position of Shiis among the Muslim minority in Britain.
Description: Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations (2019) Since the 1980s, the Borough of Brent, in north-west London, has been a major global hub of transnational Twelver Shiism. With the influx of Iraqi refugees, many clerical leaders of Twelver Shia Islam established their European headquarters in Brent, and, in addition to Damascus and Tehran, London became a major centre of Iraqi diaspora politics during Saddam Hussein’s regime. The transnational networks and organizations based in Brent engage in an Islamic ‘transnational public space’, which Bowen defines as a globally operating discursive ‘field of Islamic reference and debate’. Based on ethnographic research in London, the article provides novel insights into the Twelver Shia Muslim organizational field in Britain and its engagement in ‘an alternative diasporic public sphere’ that articulates issues and contestations specific to Shia Muslims living in Britain: what does displacement and migration mean for Shia Muslims who have often escaped oppression, war and civil conflict; how do Shia Muslims in Britain define their relationship to Sunnis in the context of rising sectarianism in the post-Arab Spring Middle East; how do Shia Muslims position themselves towards Iran and its aspiration to be the political leader of global Shiism?