Cork-based Journalist and human rights activist Bairbre Flood (above) has completed an hour-long radio documentary on Islam In Ireland (available to listen above or at link below).
The radio documentary wasn’t broadcast yet I was getting messages that I shouldn’t be even discussing the subject as a white westerner.
Islam is often seen as a racial construct – and both the xenophobes and the social justice warriors buy into the orientalist view of Islam as a racial identity, not an idea (or set of ideas).
It’s very difficult to have a conversation about the doctrine of Islam within these parameters – everyone tiptoeing around the core tenets, either afraid they’ll inflame the bigots or of being labelled ‘Islamophobic’.
But surely we can hold Islam to the same standards we would fundamentalist Christianity for example – or Catholicism, or Scientology? It’s not a criticism of Muslim people themselves to examine the religion of Islam.
Perhaps the most well known mosque in Ireland, the Irish Islamic Cultural Centre (Clonskeagh Mosque) houses the headquarters of the European Council for Fatwa and Research which issued two particularly worrying fatwas – in 2003, a fatwa stating the punishment for apostasy is death, and one in 2004 stating that all gays should be killed.
The Dublin and Cork Islamic Cultural Centres have been given hundreds of thousands of euros from the al Maktoub Foundation in the UAE, and their particular kind of Wahhabi Islam has a political aim, not just a religious or spiritual one (the ‘Vatican of Islam in Ireland’ as one commentator dubbed them).
Ali Selim, who was secretary to the Imam at the Clonskeagh Mosque is an active supporter of sharia law (see his talk, ‘The Concept of Shari’ah, Islamic Law’ from 2013).
The day after the Charlie Hebdo attck in 2015, Selim was on national radio urging people not to link the attacks with Islam and threatening legal action on any Irish journalist or media outlet which printed the cartoon cover of the magazine published in honour of the people who’d just been killed.
Of course, the IICC doesn’t represent all muslims in Ireland (or even all Sunni Muslims) – there’s a large Ahmadiyya mosque in Galway and also a substantial Sufi community in Dublin. There’s over fifty mosques or prayer rooms throughout the country, most of these funded by the congregation themselves.
There’s over fifty different nationalities within the Muslim community and within that huge differences in how strict individuals are, and variations in how they practice their faith.
Some don’t pray at all, but still identify strongly as Muslim – like many people in Ireland who still identify as Catholic, but rarely go to mass andonly nominally believe in its doctrine. But even with all that in mind, there has been very little research into what Irish Muslims believe and how strongly they believe it.
The only opinion poll on Muslim attitudes was carried out for the Irish Independent and RTÉ’s Prime Time in 2006 and it found that more than a third (36%) would prefer Ireland to be ruled under Sharia law and more than half of young Muslims (57%) believe Ireland should become an Islamic State.
Then there’s the kinds of speakers that are being invited over here.
In May, 2017 the Cork Islamic Information Centre with Discover Islam put on a talk, ‘How To Live With Your Neighbour in Western Countries’ by Uthman Lateef who in 2007 told students at Queen Mary University in the UK: “We don’t accept homosexuality. We hate it because Allah hates it”.
In March 2016 this mosque on Shandon Street invited a speaker called Shady Al-Suleiman, who once ended a talk in Birmingham in 2014 with ‘“Give victory to all the Mujahideen all over the world. Oh Allah, prepare us for the jihad” and who 2010 organised a conference which featured a talk via phone by Anwar Al-Awlaki (of Al-Qaeda).
In May 2015, Abdurraheem Green gave a talk ‘The Prophet and his Message’ at this same Cork mosque. Green was cancelled from an event at a Montreal university in 2011 after concerns were raised over statements he made about how men may treat their wives: he said, “The husband is allowed – to prevent her from evil – to provide some type of physical force”.
When I emailed the Cork Dawah Centre about these speakers, this was their response:
‘Let me reassure you, we would not have allowed anyone to speak if we had known of any extremist views that they may have had in the past. When I looked into it in the past, as
you’re not the first to question us, many of the individuals and the organisations as a whole have come out and opposed previously held ideas. Which unsurprisingly hasn’t been widely publicised.
Members of the local community including the Gardai and various Lord Mayors have attended these events. Speakers when coming to the centre submit an outline of what they are planning to speak on so that it can be reviewed.
Most of the speakers we have invited in the past have been requested to speak on the importance of manners, not harming others, helping and caring for others in society, etc, as this is considered to be half the faith and the heaviest thing on the last day. This does not fit with the opinions you’ve expressed below. I hope I’ve allayed any fears you may have.’
The kinds of speakers being invited to mosques here and the influence of Wahhabi Islam is only one part of the problem – but at least they are in the public eye and open to scrutiny.
The even deeper problem is the more than forty Irish muslims who’ve gone to fight with ISIS since 2014, some of whom have started returning to Ireland. There’s also over 70 on a watch list, suspected of providing logistical support to terrorist groups in Europe and no anti-radicalisation programme in place here.
Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organization, said:
‘Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy…The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to “Islamophobia.” Or do people want to accuse me — an Islamic scholar — of being an Islamophobe too?’ –
This isn’t to demonise in any way the thousands of Muslims living here – or to diminish the very real effect anti-Muslim bias can have on their lives, but at the same time we can start holding Islam to the same standards as we’ve done in recent years here in Ireland with Catholicism, and strive for a similar insistence on the primacy of secular values.
It’s also important for us to provide a safe environment for Muslims to critique their religion (unlike in many parts of the world where it can mean dishonour, arrest, beatings and even death).
Ireland has an opportunity to be a safe house for Muslims to publish their ideas – for ex-Muslims to feel free to tell their experiences – and for moderate, liberal Muslims to find support and solidarity here.