While Shi’a Muslims remain in the minority in Europe, including within universities, the past decade has witnessed the growing profile of Shi’ism on university campuses, especially in Britain. In particular, there has been an emphasis on campaigns that prioritise notions of justice, equality, and human rights. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork conducted amongst Twelver Shi’a students in Britain between 2013–2018, this paper examines the forms of Shi’a activism currently being articulated on university campuses, especially those that explicitly seek to engage non-Muslims and spread awareness about Shi’a Islam. On the one hand, such practices constitute a form of self-representation for Shi’a students who would otherwise feel marginalised within the university space; while on the other, they promote a particular version of Shi’a Islam that both frames it within the European context and that also contributes to the sectarianisation
of the contemporary Shi’a subject. While the forms and resonance of Shi’a student activism arguably only have meaning within the context of contemporary Europe, we argue that the discursive contours underpinning such activism ultimately transcend such national and cultural boundaries and contribute to a reinterpretation and reimagining of Shi’a sectarian identity for the modern age.
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