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Islam in the West

Iraqi Shi’i Communities in Transition and Dialogue

Series:

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 3 The Narrative of Emancipation among Shi‘a in Iran

Extract

Introduction I have chosen the narrative of emancipation as the central narrative within political Shi‘ism of the Middle East. This aspect of Shi‘ism is most evi- dent in the Persian Gulf. The heartlands of the Persian Gulf also happen to be the Shi‘i heartland. Out of an estimated 1.3 billion Muslims in the world,1 about 11 per cent are Shi‘a. More than 50 per cent are Twelver or Ithna ‘Ashariyaa Shi‘a. These live in the geopolitically sensitive rim of the Persian Gulf, as majorities of the citizen populations in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and as minorities in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Iran is the single largest Shi‘i Muslim country in the world, over 95 per cent of its 40 million citizens are Shi‘i. Events in Shi‘i Iraq are intimately related to the developments within Iran. This is not a recent development; from the earliest time in Shi‘i history Iraq played the significant role of an emerging empire. However, it was Iran that led to the spread of Ithna ‘Ashariyya Shi‘a in subsequent centuries. The history, the doctrine, the literature and the politics of Twelver Shi‘a are intimately though not uniquely connected to an Iranian world and the particular developments of that world, that has seen the emergence of a national state, the growth of the monarchy and its eventual overthrow with the establishment of an Islamic state. Shi‘ism has played a...

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