Being a young British Iraqi Shii in London: exploring diasporic cultural and religious identities between Britain and Iraq

Abstract

Relying on an ethnographic research conducted both in the UK and Iraq, this article explores issues of cultural and religious identities among London-based young British Iraqi Shiis. Using Stuart Hall’s notions of ‘articulation’ and ‘new ethnicities’, I analyse how different realities and experiences of space and class shape young British Iraqi Shiis self-identification in relation to socio-political, religious and ethnic belongings.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In London between November 2015 and June 2016, I have formally interviewed young British Iraqi Shii between the age of 20 to 36 years old: five young men and seven young females.

  2. 2.

    A Shii Muslim student society.

  3. 3.

    Followers of Muhammed al-Shirazi who tends to focus on Muharram rituals and on the city of Karbala.

  4. 4.

    Shii main religious educational institution based in Najaf.

  5. 5.

    Marja’ or Marja’ al-taqlid is the highest religious authority in Shii Islam, many Shiis consider that they should choose and follow one marja’ that will provide them religious guidance.

  6. 6.

    This was also observed by Shanneik (2013) among the diaspora and Deeb (2006) in the Lebanese context.

  7. 7.

    Arabic term for religious preacher.

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Correspondence to Zahra Ali.

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This article is based on the research project “Karbala in London”: transnational Shi’i networks between Britain and the Middle East, supervised by Oliver Scharbrodt at the Chester Centre for Islamic Studies, University of Chester. The article expands on my research presentations at the BRAIS conference (London, April 2016) and at the Shii Minorities in the Contemporary World conference (University of Chester, May 2016).

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Ali, Z. Being a young British Iraqi Shii in London: exploring diasporic cultural and religious identities between Britain and Iraq. Cont Islam 13, 349–367 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11562-018-0433-y

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Keywords

  • Transnational Shii Islam
  • Iraqi Shiism
  • Sectarianism
  • British Shii Muslims