Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone, du 19 au 24 julliet 2010


Approaches to Shi'i Studies (480) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Shadaab Rahemtulla (Ph.D. Candidate, Oxford University, UK)

Paper presenter: Søren Schmidt (Project researcher-Danish Institute for International Studies, Denmark), “The Role of Religion in Politics. The Case of Shia-islamism in Iraq”
How are we to interpret the role of Shia-Islam in recent political developments in Iraq? What was the relationship between the Shia-Islamist parties and Shia-Islamic institutions in these developments, and what is their relationship to-day? Was it about installing a new Shia-Islamic theocracy, or was Shia-Islam, its ritual practices, ideology and institutions rather the fulcrum which allowed the historically marginalised Shiite population to assert itself politically within the Iraqipolity? These are some of the questions which are posed in this paper in order to provide a better understanding of the relationship between Shia-Islam and Shia-Islamist politics and, from a wider perspective, between religion and politics. In answering these questions, the paper applies the socio-political conflict explanatory model, which draws attention to the historical contingency of the interplay between socio-cultural, political, and religious factors.

Paper presenter: Mohammad Reza Hafeznia and Sayed Abbas Ahmadi (Professor-Tarbiat Modares University, Iran), “The new challenges in front of spreading and influence of political Shiite in the Middle East”
The victory of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979 on the basis of the Shiite thought, culminated in the founding of the Islamic political system. This event must be considered as a turning point for politicizing of Shiite religion in the modern era. Political power of the Shiite leaders in Iran, and slogan for export of the revolution, culminated in the adopting of the position of anti-super powers during the cold-war period by the government of Iran, which is still continued toward United States of America so far. In contrast with, these states took their position against the state of Iran, and adopted some measures for its collapse or containment as well. From another side, political power of the Shiite in Iran, strengthened the morale and hopefulness of the Shiite people in other countries, and encouraged them to be politicized. Because in a historical perspective they had seen themselves as a minority group and deprived and oppressed people as well. Regarding the relations between Iran and other Shiite communities, we can suppose a spatial model of Core and Periphery. That Iran is located in the core, and the other Shiite communities in the periphery, which included Shiite in Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and etc. So the Shiite communities in the other parts of the world can be considered as the geopolitical interests of Iran. Political consciousness of the Shiite people in the other states with the majority of Sunnite people, or with the Sunnite governments helped to development of dispute and hostility among them. Moreover, the global and regional geopolitical events after the collapse of bi-polar system (1990), and military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan helped to arising of this situation among them. All of these factors helped to appear a pessimism atmosphere among them, and development of contrast discourse of Iran-Arab and Shiite-Sunnite in the world. In the framework of above mentioned discourses, new challenges emerged in front of political Shiite influence in the Middle East, which will be discussed by this paper. The main of these challenges are: political convergence among the majority of the Arab states in front of Iran and its role in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and etc?; harmful actions against Shiite minorities as well as Iranian citizens, especially in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE and etc; issuance of some anti-Shiite judgments by the Sunnite religious scholars; attack to the Shiite values and institutions; publications of the books and broadcasting the literature against Shiite in the mass media or cyber-space; and so on.

Paper presenter: Sajad Jiyad (Researcher-Centre for Islamic Shia Studies, UK), “A case study of identity in Iraq: the Arab Shi'a in Baghdad and Samarra”
The Shi'a in Iraq has had a long history since the time of the Caliphate of Ali, though their identity has been questioned just as long. Throughout the early Islamic empires, they were seen to be anti-state and had no loyalty to one government. With the later Ottoman Empire, conflicts again arose due to their sectarian inclination over other identities. The advent of the post-colonial Iraq again brought about the question of to whom the Iraqi Shi'a owe allegiance to: Their religious authorities in Najaf, the political entities in Iran or the state of Iraq as a whole. Though Najaf and Karbala have traditionally been the centres of Shi'a power, it is in fact Baghdad which was the centre for large periods of history. The early pioneering scholars such as al-Mufid, al-Murtadha and al-Tusi were all based there. This paper addresses the contribution of the Iraqi Shi'a to the development of Baghdad and how they questions over their national sentiment/identity arose. The paper also uses the city of Samarra as an example to answer the questions of Arab Shi'a identity in Iraq, mentioning local tribes, politicians, scholars, noblemen and their interactions with the different classes and groups, and with neighbouring powers such as the Ottoman empire, the Safavid empire, the politicians of Baghdad and the clergy of Najaf and Karbala throughout history. The underlying significance of the Shrines of the Imams (in Baghdad and Samarra) and the fact that Samarra is the birth place and last known residence of the Imam Al-Mahdi is analysed. The contribution of the Shi'a to the cultural heritage of Baghdad and Samarra through government, building, tourism, publishing and prestige is addressed. The paper concludes with the difficult questions posed to the Shi'a in Iraq recently. Are they Arab or are they Shi'a? Can they be both? To whom is their identity most associated with, the clergy in Najaf, the state of Iraq or the government of Iran? The answers to this are shown to be both complex, heterogeneous and varied according to different towns such as Baghdad and Samarra.

Paper presenter: Jehan Saleh (Amman Scholar-Council for British Research in the Levant, Jordan), “The political mobilisation of Lebanon's Shi'ite community”
This paper explores the origins of Shi’ite political activism in Lebanon. The study considers the extent to which the interaction between the French Mandatory authorities and Shi’ite political actors, as well as Shi’ite involvement in Lebanon’s secular political parties, played a formative role in the evolution of a distinctly Shi’ite political identity. Existing scholarly studies on the history of Lebanon generally consider the Shi’ite community as merely an intermittent factor in Lebanese politics. Where the community has captured the attention of scholars and policy-makers alike, the focus has been predominantly on the more recent Shi’ite actors, notably Musa al-Sadr, Amal and Hezbollah. In many cases the complexities of Shi’ite activism have been overlooked by an emphasis on primordialism and confessional politics, militant political Islamism, or external actors and events. Collectively, these approaches fail to recognise the historical evolution of Shi’ite politics in Lebanon. This analysis seeks to develop a more inclusive reading of Lebanese history and Shi’ite politics. Combining a social constructivist approach with theories of identity, nationalism and social movements the study seeks to understand the emergence and evolution of Shi’ite political identity since the early 20th century. It recognises the territorially specific, Lebanese character of Shi’ite activism, emphasising the impact of key events, actors, social structures and political systems that have contributed to the politicisation of Lebanon’s Shi’ite community. The 1920s, during the Mandate period is taken as the starting point. The initial nationalist and pan-Arabist political leanings of various Shi’ite actors, most notably the al-’Irfan intellectuals, and the nature of their interaction with the French colonial authorities are considered. Shi’ite involvement in Lebanon’s leftist political parties, in particular the Lebanese Communist Party is then examined, demonstrating that in the early stages of Shi’ite political development, Shi’ite activists defined their demands in the context of issues of equality and class, rather than religion and sect. Finally, the gradual development of a distinctive Shi’ite identity and political voice is noted, in correlation with specific processes in Lebanese politics, such as modernisation and the problem of the Lebanese national question. The study concludes that the inability of Lebanon’s elites to adequately respond to Shi’ite demands for political, social and economic parity throughout history has contributed to the ‘confessionalisation’ of Shi’ite political activism in Lebanon. By historicizing Lebanon’s Shi’ite community it is intended that this will pave the way for a renewed and more inclusive reading of the history of Lebanon, and an earlier reading of Shi’ite history in particular, allowing for a more contextualised understanding of contemporary Shi’ite politics.