Shia is the 2nd biggest sect of Islam, accounting for about 10% of Muslims worldwide (nearly 80% of Muslims are Sunni). In the UK, they make up about 10% of the 1.8 million-strong Muslim community.

In order to understand the Shia cultural identity it's necessary to learn the history behind the division in Islam. When Prophet Mohammed died his followers had to deal with the issue of succession. Many battles took place among the groups that claimed the right to guide the new religion and in one of these battles the Prophet’s grandson, Hussein, was brutally killed. This event, known as the Tragedy of Karbala, took place in Karbala, Iraq, about 1400 years ago.

Following this, Hussein’s supporters were humiliated and persecuted. Today, Shia believers are those who identify themselves with Hussein’s group. They commemorate every anniversary of the Tragedy.

The history of the Shia community in Britain is tied with the history of modern Britian. Immigration has always played a vital role in British life and the Shia community, mainly of Pakistani origin, is deeply inserted in this process.

This series shows general images of the Shia community in Britain. It ranges from ceremonies in and outdoors, to the daily life of some of the families I have been documenting since 2001.

This other series shows a pilgrimage from the UK to Iraq. The ousting of Saddam’s regime made it possible for Shias from across the globe to visit their holiest sites in Iraq. Despite the dangers a group of British Shia Muslims made it on March 2004, challenging the risks of bomb attacks (which killed 120 pilgrims) and other threats caused by the lack of public order.

Shia Muslims in the UK