This research examines the religious and political ties between 'official' Iran and UK-based Muslim communities. Based on a case study of Iran's institutional presence in the UK that will discuss its multifaceted religious, educational, and political programmes for coreligionists, it seeks to analyse how the Islamic Republic transfers, negotiates, and reformulates its norms and values transnationally. The British scene offers an interesting case study primarily because it is host to many Sunni and Shi‘i Muslims from different ethnic and national backgrounds, communities to which the Islamic Republic of Iran has paid particular attention from the 1980s onwards.
Looking specifically at the effect of transnationalism on the state, this research will analyse the Islamic Republic’s use of cross-border activism as a soft power resource. In general terms, Iran’s transnational interactions with Muslim communities have mainly been studied with regard to Islamic political movements in Arab and Central Asian countries, while its reach to coreligionists living away from their country of origin has largely been overlooked in the literature.
Yet, Iran’s involvement in the lives of Muslim migrants, refugees, and exiles is characteristic of its quest for religious and political leadership outside the country’s borders and, I argue, has much to say about the use of religion to advance state interests. As such, the benefits of state-sponsored transnationalism cannot only consider the direct ties Iran creates and maintains with Muslim believers, but also its relations with both their country of origin and the state hosting them (namely the UK), as well as with other transnational actors involved in transnational activities on the British scene.
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