Dr Paul Tabar
University of Western Sydney
Ashura, a Muslim Shii Ceremony
This study examines a religious ceremony called `Ashura, organized
in south-west Sydney by members of the Lebanese Shii Muslim community.
Twelver Shiism (the second largest Muslim community in the world
after the Sunnis) organize this ceremony every year in the first
ten days of Muharram, the first month in the year according to
the Islamic calendar. The study raises the issue of the transformation
of a cultural practice (`Ashura) through its immersion in the
context of a migrant capitalist society. Given the global and
local conditions of living in Sydney, specific concerns emerge
as being primarily responsible for the re-construction of the
` Ashura ritual. These concerns include parental control over
kids born and raised in Australia, the experience of marginality
and racism and the impact of media stereotyping on the Shii migrants.
Effects of globalization on the construction of the Shii identity
within the context of `Ashura are also discussed. It is the argument
of this paper that the transformation of `Ashura in the context
of migrancy is mainly effected to address current problems faced
by Shii migrants in the city of Sydney. It is further shown that
the participation in `Ashura will provide symbolic and bodily
conditions around which the identity of Shii migrants is formed.
It is also argued that this constructed identity empowers the
Shiis to negotiate the negative and positive aspects of their
presence in the Australian society.
30 min paper