THE DIVERSITY CONFERENCE 2000

National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights


Dr Paul Tabar
University of Western Sydney

Ashura, a Muslim Shii Ceremony

Abstract
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.

Presentation Type
30 min paper


University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

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