Lamenting Karbala in Europe: Husayni liturgy and discourses of dissent amongst diasporic Bahraini and Lebanese Shi‘is

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The presence of Shii communities in Europe is increasingly felt, especially as they establish independent religious and social infrastructures. Supporters of different Shii–Islamist political parties have established transnational links connecting diasporic communities with their countries of origin. These links have shaped and been shaped by religious, political and social dynamics in the Middle East. This article examines how lamentation poetry performed in Shii ritual gatherings is used to articulate political dissent among diasporic communities. The lachrymal expressions and descriptions that characterize Shii lamentation poetry have the ritualistic function of metaphorically identifying participants with Imam Husayn and his cause. Organizers of these gatherings, however, use lamentation poetry to narrate and give meaning to geopolitical developments in the Middle East, especially since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003. This article constitutes the first attempt to examine the political contextualization of Shii lamentation poetry, embedded within the political discourses of two Shii Islamist parties, the al-Wefaq Movement in Bahrain and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Unlike other studies on Shii ritual practices, it is informed by a multi-sited ethnographic study of female-only and maledominated ritual spaces in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain.

Bibliographic note

Funding Information: This article is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme [grant agreement No. 724557]. Publisher Copyright: © 2020 University of Birmingham.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-79
Number of pages27
JournalIslam and Christian-Muslim Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2021


  • Bahrain, Hizbullah, Husayn, Lebanon, Shia Islam, al-Wefaq, lamentation poetry