This article will argue that divisions within the American Shiʿi community are often exacerbated by the establishment of ethnic institutions that act as cultural buffers.
The twentieth century witnessed a dramatic increase in the migration of Muslims to the American shores. The increased presence and visibility of Muslims in America means that Islam is no longer to be characterized as a Middle Eastern or South Asian phenomenon. Given the fact that it is the fastest growing religion in America, Islam is now a very American phenomenon. Hence the familiar categorization of ‘Islam and the West’ should be reformulated to read ‘Islam in the West.’
Most scholars have focused on the experience of Sunni Muslims in America. They often postulate a monolithic Islam that expresses the ‘normative Islam.’ Hence any variant religious expression is perceived as an aberration that is to be ignored or discarded. This paper will outline the salient features that characterize the Shiʿi community in America. It will also examine the challenges the community encounters living as a minority within the broader Muslim community.
The article will argue that divisions within the American Shiʿi community are often exacerbated by the establishment of ethnic institutions that act as cultural buffers. These institutions conduct services and enact rituals along the lines that were established “back home,” marginalizing, in the process, Shiʿis who come from different ethnic backgrounds. It will be argued that far from being a monolithic group, the American Shiʿi community comprises a mosaic of diverse ethnic and cultural groups that have settled in America. As a matter of fact, it is possible to speak of a ‘rainbow’ nature of Shiʿi Islam.
Title: A Minority with Diversity: the Shiʿi Community in America
Author: Liyakat ali Takim
Published in: Journal of Islamic Law and Culture, Volume 10, 2008 – Issue 3
Length: 15 pages