Panel 8c Shi’ism: Clerical Authority, Identity and Diaspora

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Chair: Dr Stuart Horsman, Research Analyst – Iran, Middle East and North Africa Research Group, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Paper 1: Shiite Marja’iyat: The Association of Shiite Quietism and Activism
Mohammadreza Kalantari, Research Fellow, Royal Holloway University of London

Immediately following the occultation of the last Shiite Imam, ideas concerning who has the right to lead the Ummah converged around two positions. One position held that the most predominant Shiite jurist should rule until the emergence of the Imam (Shiite activism). The second position maintained that any government except that which belongs to the innocent Imam is idolatrous and Muslims must therefore tolerate all the oppressions of any state until the Imam’s emergence (Shiite quietism). This paper examines the political rhetoric, manifestos, and ideology of each faction based on a series of documents and interviews conducted among the scholars of Qom and Najaf Seminaries. It explores whether an association between the two factions is possible, what its nature would be, and what impact it would have on the politics of the Middle East and on a wider arena of international relations. >> download the paper

Paper 2: Ayatollah Montazeri and the Institutions of the Islamic Republic of Iran: A Contrasting Legacy
Dr Constance Arminjon, PhD graduate, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)

Late Ayatollah Montazeri (d. 2009) played a decisive role in the creation of the new Shiite state headed by Ayatollah Khomeini. Not only did he contribute to the establishment of its religious political institution, the “guardianship of the religious jurist” (velâyat-e faqîh), but he composed the most comprehensive apology of the Islamic government. However, after Ali Khamenei took over as the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Montazeri, who had once been Khomeini’s heir, voiced a harsh criticism of the evolution of the Islamic state. He then advocated the independence of religious institutions vis-à-vis the state. In his last works, he showed a great concern about human rights in a religious state. This paper aims at reassessing Montazeri’s legacy both in the institutions of Iran and in Shiite political thought, through the light of his doctrinal works, his actual stances and the memory of some of his disciples.

Paper 3: The Relationship Between Iranian Twelver Shi’ite Identity and Ritual: From the Seventh Century to Today
Alexander Kolbitsch, PhD candidate, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

The paper investigates the formation and character of Iranian identity – in particular Iranian Twelver Shi’ite identity. The development and genres of Shi’ite rituals and religious art are explored and the question is asked, how they relate to Shi’ite collective identity. The paper consists of two parts, each of them divided into two sections. Whereas section 1.1 proceeds chronologically through Iranian history, dealing with events significant for the formation of Iranian Shiite identity, section 1.2 considers the appearance of Iranian Shiite identity in the present. Likewise, section 2.1 proceeds chronologically, elaborating on the development of Shi’ite ritual and religious as well as non-religious art in Iran. Section 2.2 portrays the current landscape of Shi’ite ritual and religious and non-religious art in the Islamic Republic of Iran – sorted by the existing genres – again investigating the interaction with Shi’ite collective identity.

Paper 4: Emancipation and Empowerment, Iraqi Shi’i Communities in Transition
Dr Kieran Flynn, Post-Doctoral Researcher and Lecturer, Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin

This paper looks at political and religious narratives of emancipation and empowerment that are interpreted and reflected upon by Iraqi Shi’i Communities in the West. These narratives are interpreted in the light of developments that have taken place in Iraq since 2003. In this context Iraqi communities have experienced Occupation, War, Terror atrocities as well as political transition, democratic elections and democratic representation. Iraqi Shi’i Communities in the West are well placed to interpret developments in the Middle East. Despite a history of displacement, intimidation and victimisation, these communities are finding resources in their religion to promote reconciliation, political participation, democracy, human rights and dialogue with other religions. There is much in Shi’a Islam that can benefit from a dialogue with Catholic Liberation and Political Theology within the context of the empowerment of communities and the deep experience of suffering and loss due to dictatorship, war, occupation and sectarian violence. >> download the paper

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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