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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 4 Narratives of Shi‘i Opposition and Emancipation in Iraq


Introduction Iraqi Shi‘i exiles who have emigrated to the West recall a history of trauma and oppression from within their own country. Many have experienced the tyranny of dictatorship, war and terrorism. The reality of exile heightens the experience of isolation and dislocation. In mythical memory and in the narratives remembered in exile, Shi‘a have experienced violence and oppression in Iraq from the time of early Islamic history. Recalling Iraqi Shi‘i history is for many exiles to recall a history that goes back for centuries, leading back to the time immediately following the death of the Prophet Muhammad. In this history the Shi‘i minority experienced injustice at the hands of the Sunni majority. Over many generations Shi‘i and Sunni lived in Iraq with a history of tolerance for each other, but the recent events under the Ba‘ath regime, Saddam Hussein and American invasion have increased sectarian divisions to new levels of intolerance and violence. The previous history of Iraqi Shi‘is is viewed from this perspective of injustice and violence. Much has been written about Iraqi history in the twentieth century. The most well known examples are A History of Iraq, Charles Tripp, 2000, and The Modern History of Iraq by Phebe Marr, 2004. These are written from the perspective of political science, outlining the major trends and movements in society and politics. They do not present either a narrative of Shi‘i involvement in history, or a vision of society and history from...

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