Exploring Contemporary Shi’ism in European and Middle Eastern Contexts (panel I-IV)

Dr. Emanuelle Degli Esposti – University of Cambridge

Finding a ‘Shi’a voice’ in Europe: minority representation and the unsettling of secular humanitarianism in the discourse of ‘Shi’a rights’

In contemporary Europe, where the hegemony of modern secular governance remains largely uncontested, how do minority religious communities – especially Muslims – negotiate the tension between religious duty and forms of secularised civic belonging? This paper takes Twelver Shi’a Muslim activism in Europe as a starting place to interrogate the encounter between Islamic and secular values. In particular she examine the emergence of what she call the discourse of ‘Shi’a rights’ through which Shi’a Muslims are seeking to gain minority recognition within the European context. Combining elements of Shi’a Islamic ethics with the language of secular humanitarianism, the discourse of ‘Shi’a rights’ is emancipatory and outward-facing while simultaneously being exclusionary and particularistic in the way it promotes specific understandings of what it means to be ‘Shi’a’.