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Shiʿism, Culture and Group Membership Amidst Social Change

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In the modern era, Shiʿis in their diverse locations began debating the relationship between their core sectarian identity and their wider political, cultural and religious affiliations. Muḥammad Fadhel Jamalī, an educator, intellectual and statesman, exemplified the position of the new Shiʿi intelligentsia in Iraq whose drive towards political integration and cultural assimilation within the nation-state, as well as in the broader Arab milieu, contrasted with the sectarian identity of the Shiʿi masses. Jamalī’s memoirs provide important insights into the views of the Iraqi Hashemite administration, which negotiated its position between commitment to Arabism and a pro-Western policy. Taking another perspective on contemporary Shiʿism, Liyakat Nathani Takim sheds light on the rich composition of the Shiʿi community in the US, which has not been widely studied. His book depicts a shift from the more universal orientation of the Shiʿi elite, which emerged during the twentieth century, towards traditional sectarian and ethnic identifications. Yet the book also shows the complexity of Shiʿi group membership in a globalized world. While sectarianism is on the rise, Shiʿi youth in the West are contemplating their relationship with the broader Muslim milieu and Western society, as well as their loyalty to a national civic framework.

Affiliations: 1: Tel Aviv University


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