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Islam in the West

Iraqi Shi’i Communities in Transition and Dialogue


Kieran Flynn

This book studies the historical, religious and political concerns of the Iraqi Shi‘i community as interpreted by the members of that community who now live in the United Kingdom and Ireland, following the 2003-2010 war and occupation in Iraq. It opens up a creative space to explore dialogue between Islam and the West, looking at issues such as intra-Muslim conflict, Muslim-Christian relations, the changing face of Arab Islam and the experience of Iraq in the crossfire of violence and terrorism – all themes which are currently emerging in preaching and in discussion among Iraqi Shi‘a in exile. The book’s aim is to explore possibilities for dialogue with Iraqi Shi‘i communities who wish, in the midst of political, social and religious transition, to engage with elements of Christian theology such as pastoral and liberation theology.


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Chapter 1 Shi‘i Muslim Migration and Settlement in Ireland and the UK


Introduction Little attention has been paid to the settlement histories of those Muslim communities in Britain and Ireland who subscribe to non-Sunni traditions. The reason for this is largely due to the public face of Islam in Britain having remained almost exclusively associated with South Asian Sunni dominated Islam.1 In most academic discourses Islam in the West seems to be equated with Sunnism. This monolithic view has obscured the proper recognition and understanding of the religious and social experience of a significant religious minority in the West. There is no significant study of Muslim minorities in Britain or Ireland. I am particularly concerned with the Shi‘a of the Twelver, Ithana Ashari, denomination and within that denomination those who have come from the Middle East, especially Iraq. This is essentially a minority nation- alistic community within an already identifiable Muslim minority in exile. 1 Humayun Ansari, The Infidel Within, Muslims in Britain Since 1800, Hurst and Co., London 2003, p. 380. Philip Lewis, Islamic Britain, I.B. Tauris, London, 1994. Lewis presents an overview of religion, politics and identity among British Muslims, par- ticularly those living in the Bradford and Midlands regions. In Philip Lewis, John Snow, Young, British and Muslim, Continuum International Publishing, London, 2007, Lewis presents an overview of emerging trends in Islam in Britain in the first decade of this millennium. In Tahir Abbas (ed.), Muslim Britain, Communities under Pressure, Zed Books, London, 2005, Abbas edits a series of essays that present the challenge facing Muslim communities in...

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