Shi‘a visions of Muslim unity in contemporary Britain

In contrast to the ever-growing scholarship dedicated to sectarianism in the Middle East, relations between Sunni and Shi‘a Muslims in European contexts remain understudied. In Britain, the past decade has witnessed manifestations of Sunni-Shi‘a tensions which have also been matched by initiatives aimed at easing them. Such initiatives on the British Shi‘a scene are instructive to explore how Shi‘a Muslims conceive “Muslim unity” but also their own place within Islam’s diversity. Grounded in their position as a double minority, the visions of unity they promote constitute an attempt to normalise intra-Muslim differences and mainstream Shi‘ism, while also speaking to wider concerns about what it means to be Muslim in contemporary Britain.

Elvire Corboz is Lecturer in Contemporary Islam and Middle East in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Her research on contemporary Twelver Shi‘ism concentrates on the clerical establishment and its transnational networks, Shi‘a institutions in Britain, and Iraqi Shi‘a Islamism. Her publications include Guardian of Shi‘ism: Sacred Authority and Transnational Family Networks published by Edinburgh University Press. She is also the co-editor of the special issue “The Dynamics of Sunni-Shi‘a Relations in Europe” in the Journal of Muslims in Europe.