University hosts groundbreaking conference focusing on Shia minorities.

Posted on 6th June 2016

A unique and groundbreaking conference focusing on Shia minorities, and their migration around the world, has taken place at the University of Chester.

Pictured are the participants in the Shia Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality conference, which took place recently at the University of Chester.
Pictured are the participants in the Shia Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality conference, which took place recently at the University of Chester.

Shia Muslims make up about 10% of all Muslims globally, with the majority in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iran and Iraq. There are also large Shia communities in many areas of the world, including Afghanistan, India, Lebanon, Syria and the UAE. Shias believe that Ali, the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, was his rightful successor as leader of the Muslim community.

This conference, entitled Shia Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality focused on Shia Muslims who have migrated from the Middle East and South Asia over the last 100 years, and brought together researchers working on Shia minorities in Europe, North and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, the Pacific Rim and East Asia, that emerged out of that migration. It was organised by the new Chester Centre for Islamic Studies*.

One of the keynote lectures was delivered by leading historian of contemporary Shi’ism, Sabrina Mervin, who presented Linking Shia Minorities to the Shii Core: History, Rituals and Religious Authority. Sabrina spent a decade in the Middle East (Syria and the Lebanon) conducting research. She is the editor and author of a number of books, including The Shi’a Worlds and Iran (Les mondes chiites et l’Iran (Karthala, 2007)), Un réformisme chiite (Karthala, 2000), and Le Hezbollah, état des lieux (Actes Sud, 2008).

Oliver Scharbrodt, Professor of Islamic Studies and Director of the Chester Centre for Islamic Studies, said: “As ‘a minority within a minority’, Shia Muslims face the double-challenge of maintaining an Islamic as well as a particular Shia identity in terms of communal activities, practices, public perception and recognition.

“Often coming from minority contexts of marginalisation and discrimination, their experience of migration and settlement in other parts of the world, whether enforced or voluntary, is often different from those of other Muslim immigrants. The rich tradition of Shia ritual practices and the authority structures specific to different forms of Shia Islam likewise shape the post-migratory minority experience of Shia.

“The papers presented at our conference offered unique comparative insights into Shia minorities in a variety of contexts across the globe.”

The conference took place at Hollybank, the University’s Department for Theology and Religious Studies, opposite the Parkgate Road Campus. More details about Shia Minorities in the Contemporary World: Migration, Transnationalism and Multilocality can be found at: http://www.chester.ac.uk/node/35376