Session 7

Migration, Muslim Diaspora and Social Policy

In this session 2 papers were presented which are, respectively, (1) “Creating Shia Spaces in the Diaspora: Transnational Twelver Shia Networks and their Social Impact on Islam in Britain” by Oliver Scharbrodt; (2) “Islam in Mexico’s Indigenous Communities: The Appeal of Social Welfare and Community Issues as Conversion Detonators in the State of Chiapas” by Marcela Alvarez Perez.

In the first lecture, Oliver Scharbrodt talked about double-marginalisation of Shia Muslim minorities in non-Muslim societal contexts. In his paper, Oliver Scharbrodt, problematise this notion of a double-marginalisation of Shia minorities in the West by investigating the dynamics around the creation of Shia communal spaces in North London and the public representation of Shia Muslim identities by networks and organisations based there. He argues that both public discourse and academic research so far has failed to encapsulate the complex dynamics within Shia communities in Britain.

In the second lecture, Marcela Alvarez Perez, declared that in Mexico one of the religions that has reached some of the most remote indigenous communities is Islam, which, as early as 1994, arrived through the presence of two Spanish Murabitun Muslims and showed an exponential growth that is now reflected in over 300 followers in Tzeltal and Tzoltzil communities, making them one of the largest Muslim communities in the country. In her study she uses a cultural anthropology and lived religion theoretical framework to compare the different approaches to social welfare that the other two main religions present in the region (Catholicism and Christianism) have undertaken, with those of Islam, to explain the appeal that the latter has had within these indigenous communities, and thus their conversion to Islam. Analysis shows that, in contrast with negative experiences such as previous existing conflicts between religious communities as well as several cases of abuse from the Catholic Church, these indigenous communities have found in Islam a positive way to engage in, and promote, social welfare in their societies, fight alcoholism and other social problems, endorse education and create a stronger communal identity.