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Iraqi Shia community in london


As we discussed in the previous post, Iraqi Shia community in London carry out a variety of activities some of which have already been covered. The remaining will be elaborated on in the following paragraphs.


Social Activities of Iraqi Shia community in London

Signifiantly, as well as being in the demographic majority comparative to other diasporic Iraqis, Iraqi Shias in London have well-established and active religious and civil society institutions through which individuals are able to mobilise, both in terms of civic participation in the home state and in terms of diasporic mobilisation towards the homeland. It is this network of Shia politico-religious institutions, many of which are explicitly geared towards social and political engagement in Iraq that contributes to the formation of a diasporic Iraqi-Shi‘a subject. This is especially the case for second generation Iraqi Shi‘ites born in the UK who have little contact with Iraq itself beyond such organisational networks.


Shi’a Greatest Demonstration in London

Being visibly and publically Shi‘a is intricately related to claiming one’s place as a citizen of the modern state, a form of citizenship that is directly invested in global models of minority rights and social equality and implicated in the politics of difference and commensurability. Perhaps the most evident manifestation of such specifically Shi‘a politics of visibility is in the annual ‘Ashura’ and Arba’in marches that take place in central London on the tenth and fortieth day of Muharram respectively. Beginning at Marble Arch and progressing through Hyde Park (although for the last three years the ‘Ashura’ march has moved to go up Edgware Road), the marches draw thousands of devout Shi‘ites from various backgrounds onto the streets and avenues of central London to profess their faith and to mourn the killing of Imam Husayn. The marches manifest aesthetically as a mass of black-swathed bodies and large, Arabic inscribed banners, punctuated with the melodic cadences of latmiyyat in various languages and the rhythmical beating of bodies and drums. Alongside the religious banners, the flags of Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Bahrain, and a host of other nations can be seen, along with various smaller placards and banners bearing religious and political slogans.

In this way, the marches are seen as a way of publically and visibly claiming a politically invested manifestation of Iraqi-Shi‘a religious identity, couched in the language of international justice and minority rights.


AND MULTILOCALITY, Oliver Scharbrodt and Yafa Shanneik, 2020, EDINBURGH University Press.


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