First broadcast on UCC98.3FM. Funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television license fee. article, ‘Ireland and Islam’: read here 

‘You made it sound bad.’

For this documentary I interviewed a wide range of Muslims from all kinds of backgrounds, from Belfast to Dublin to Cork – and listened to what they had to say. I also read extensively, not just the religious texts, but a variety of sources (including opinion polls, articles and ex-Muslim testimony). Some of the aspects I found particularly hard to reconcile are given below. 

One criticism of the documentary was that I read too much of the primary texts – and read them out of context. ‘You made it sound bad,’ was what one (non-Muslim) said. Others argued that the Bible has as many problematic verses.  And if I’d been doing a documentary on Christians who believed literally in the Bible, I’d have read them out too. But this isn’t a documentary about other religions – it’s about Islam. And while Muslims are keen to show the positive verses, it would be remiss of me to limit it to just these.

I don’t get any pleasure from calling it, and despite framing the interviews with many of my interpretations – the interviews themselves are pretty unedited, and give a good sense of what many Muslims living in Ireland have experienced – and what they believe in.  

Some Sources:

The first  – and from what I can see, the only – opinion poll on Muslim attitudes in Ireland was carried out for the Irish Independent and RTE’s Prime Time by Lansdowne Market Research 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.

poll carried out in 2004 found that 58% of UK Muslims questioned believe that insulting or criticising Islam should result in a criminal prosecution. Another ICM poll in 2016 found:

  • A quarter want to live under Sharia law.
  • Over a half think homosexuality should be illegal.
  • 39% said ‘wives should always obey their husbands’.

Quran & Sunnah referenced in the programme:

Testimony of women: ‘And bring two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men then a man and two women…so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her.’ (Sura 2, verse 282)

Inheritance rights: ‘Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male what is equal to the share of two females.’ (Sura 4, verse 11)

Condoning wife beating: Men are in charge of women by right of what Allah has given one over the other….But those wives from who you fear disobedience, first advise them, then forsake them in bed, and finally, strike them.’ (Sura 4, verse 34)

Deficiency of women: ‘The Prophet said ‘isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half that of a man?’. The women said ‘yes’. He said ‘this is because of the deficiency of a woman’s mind.’ (Sahih al Bukhari 2:48:826)

Attitude towards apostates/atheists:

13 Muslim majority countries have the death penalty for apostasy. ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, kill him.’ (Sahih al Bukhari 6922)

‘Indeed, those who disbelieve in our verses – we will drive them into a fire. Every time their skins are roasted through we will replace them with other skins so they may taste the punishment. Indeed, Allah’s ever exalted in might and wise.’ (Sura 4, verse 56)

Some examples mentioned in the programme:

  • Malaysian government minister calls for atheists to be ‘hunted down’.
  • Raif Badawi, sentenced to ten years and 1,000 lashes for his writings in Saudi Arabia.
  • Eleven Bangladeshi bloggers murdered since 2013 for writing about secularism and atheism.
  • Nahed Hattar arrested by Jordanian government for reposting cartoon on facebook satirising the jihadi view of heaven. He was shot and killed in 2016.

Islam and Violence:

Everyone I interviewed were vehement in not only their lack of support for groups like ISIS, but also keen to point out that Islam doesn’t condone violence in it’s doctrine. While it’s true to say that ISIS, Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda, etc are not representative of Islam in general, it’s also true to say that these groups do have something  to do with Islam and are being inspired by Islamic doctrine. Muslims naturally find the actions of these groups to be morally reprehensible. However, there is much in Islamic ideology that could be used to  condone, support and encourage violence.

Muhammad was responsible for 80 military expeditions and took part in 27 of these himself. These were often offensive raids, sieges and battles with women and children taken as slaves (including sex slaves). Of the three Jewish tribes who’d been living in Medina, none were left after Muhammad took power there.

  • ‘Indeed the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth to cause corruption is none but that they should be killed or crucified or that their hands or feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world, and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.’ (Sura 5, verse 33)
  • ‘When you meet the unbelievers, strike their necks. Then, when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds, then set them free, either by grace or ransom til the war lays down it’s loads.’ (Sura 47, verse 4)
  • ‘Therefore all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya, they should be fought til they are killed.’ (Ibn Kathir’s Commentary on the Koran 2:256)
  • ‘Slay the idolaters wherever you find them…’ (Sura 9, verse 5)
  • ‘Kill them wherever you find them, take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.’ (Sura 4, verse 89)
  • ‘I have been made victorious with terror…The hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’  (Sahih al Bukhari 52:77)


Trigger warning for racists:

Again, this is not how most Muslims read the texts. And again – I can’t say this enough – don’t conflate the ideology with the individuals.

Please don’t contact me with anti-Muslim or anti-refugee sentiments. I’m interested in debating the ideas within Islam, not interested in stereotyping a whole people based on their religion. If you’re too thick to get the difference, don’t contact me.


Music: ‘Wonder’ by Lakey Inspired.