Islam in Ireland


First broadcast on UCC98.3FM. Funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television license fee. 

Although Islam is one of the fastest growing religions here (according to the 2016 Census there are 63,400 Muslims in Ireland), the numbers are still quite small and it’s likely that most Irish people don’t have Muslim friends or work colleagues, probably haven’t read any of the texts and perhaps base their knowledge of Islam on media reports. This lack of knowledge of both Muslim people and the doctrine of Islam itself has led to increasingly polarised attitudes.

One in three Muslims have received some kind of harassment, according to a study by Dr James Carr varying from name calling, physical attacks or trouble accessing work or housing based simply on their religion.   

But then on the other side there are those who refuse to question any aspect of Islam on the basis that it’ll provoke hate-crime. The fear of being labelled ‘Islamophobic’ has led to a reluctance to objectively evaluate both Islam the religious practice and Islam the political, legal and social policy framework. 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. I wonder if this was a fundamentalist Christian group would the concern be so muted?

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 the IICC). 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 murders 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 – it’s taken on a cultural identity as much as a religious one. Like many people in Ireland who still identify as Catholic, but rarely go to mass and only 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 first  – and from what I can see, the only – opinion poll on Muslim attitudes 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.

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 St 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 seventy on a watch list, suspected of providing logistical support to terrorist groups in Europe and no anti-radicalisation programme in place here.

‘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?’ – Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organisation.

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 it’s much more insulting to give a religion a free pass just because we don’t want to appear racist – or because we think Muslims aren’t capable of such a rational discussion.

We need to 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, if that’s what we believe in.


Research in the UK has consistently shown certain trends. For eg, this poll carried out in 2004 found that 58% of 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. Everytime 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 dumb to get that difference, don’t contact me.

Music: ‘Wonder’ by Lakey Inspired.