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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 5 Shi‘i Political Empowerment in Iraq

Extract

Introduction The period following the First Gulf War, from 1991 onwards, was an extremely important era for Iraqi Shi‘a living outside Iraq. It was during this period that many Iraqi Shi‘a left Iran and sought refuge in Europe and the West. During this period Iraqi communities began the process of consolidation and integration into western society through finding appro- priate institutions and the process of establishing themselves as viable and sustainable entities. It was during this period that Dar Al Islam in Wilsden Green, Abrar House in Edgware Road and the Ahul Bayt Centre, Dublin developed their properties, their communities and their institutions. Many Shi‘a moved abroad due to the pressure of sanctions and the dif ficulty in living in a police state. It was not only in the formation of institutions that these communities began to be more organized but also in terms of their own internal structures, their association with other politi- cal and social groups in the West and with groups within Iraq. There was a concrete desire for change and the desire to form a viable opposition to the dictatorship of the Ba‘ath Party under Saddam Hussein. America with the assistance of the UK decided to support Iraqi opposi- tion among the exiles and to remove the regime in Baghdad, in the process establishing a stable democratic government that would have close links with the West. This process of occupation and state rebuilding from the year 2003 until 2008, whereby coalition troops...

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