Middle East

Sep 1, 2014

How and why Shiites are sidelined from Australian public life

The majority of Western Muslim organisations are dominated by Sunni Muslims, writes lawyer, author and commentator Irfan Yusuf. But what about the Shia?

From 1985 to 2005 I was involved in Muslim organisational politics in Sydney, for half that period as a participant and then as a lawyer. The vast majority of these organisations were from the majority Sunni sect, and many actively excluded representatives of the minority Shia sect.

Explaining the theological, legal and political differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims requires a few volumes, and I won’t even try here beyond saying their similarities far outweigh their differences. Historically, Shia Muslims have been persecuted in various Muslim empires, such as the Ottoman Empire. In the 20th century, the Saudi monarchy saw itself as the champion of Muslim orthodoxy. The Saudi monarch was the “custodian of the two Holy Sites” in Mecca and Medina and managed the annual Haj pilgrimage. At the same time, the official religion of Saudi Arabia was the fiercely anti-Shia Wahhabi sect.

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6 thoughts on “How and why Shiites are sidelined from Australian public life

  1. ilolatu

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

  2. mikeb

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if people who come to Australia to start a new life would do just that….start a new life. But then I’m only dreaming.

  3. Elbow Patches

    We need to be better informed about these matters, thanks Irfan Yusuf.

  4. Gavin Moodie

    What proportion of Australian Muslims are Shia?

    Catholic and Protestant immigrants to Australia continued their historical enmities for over 150 years.

  5. seriously?

    @mikeb – beginning with what – give up their religion? Didn’t see how anything Ifran has said would prevent him from doing that.

  6. rani davis

    Buried deep in the subconscious mind of every fundamentalist is a lack of conviction in what is ultimately an irrational set of beliefs. To drown out this inner sceptic the fundamentalist resorts to feverish proselytism and protest to assuage any guilt, thus it is always the fundamentalist in any religion who shouts the loudest.

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