An 11-year old girl due to attend a new school in Dún Laoghaire, south of Dublin, is not allowed to wear the hijab at the school premises. The local MP has asked the Minister of Education, Ruari Quinn, to intervene on the behalf of the girl, arguing: “As the school is funded by the State, the minister has an obligation to ensure all children are treated equally and free from discrimination based on religion and dress.”
The Minister of Education, however, in response to a parliamentary question, refuses to intervene citing the 1998 Education Act according to which policies around school uniform and dress are solely determined by the board of management of individual schools.
Four Muslim families claim that their sons were refused admission to secondary schools run by the Catholic Church in South Dublin due to their religious background. The denominational educational system of the Republic of Ireland, in which most primary and secondary schools – though state-funded – are under the patronage of the Catholic Church, allows for discriminatory admission policies based on religion and for giving preference to pupils of a Catholic background.
While the four families did not encounter any problems in securing places for their daughters in Catholic girls’ secondary schools in the area, their recent applications on behalf their sons at boys’ secondary schools were rejected on the grounds of the limited availability of places. Two families appealed to the decisions at the Department of Education which upheld their appeals.
Furthermore, one family complained about impingements on freedom of religion as its son had to attend Catholic Religious Education classes and participate in religious services held at the school.
The spokesperson of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, Ali Selim, confirmed the rising number of complaints by Muslim parents who experience difficulties in finding places for their children in secondary schools in Dublin. Selim demands immediate action by the Department of Education which needs to provide clear guidelines on admission policies that prevent discrimination against on religious grounds: “All of us are taxpayers and preference should not be on the basis of religion or race. This is not a Muslim issue, it affects all non-Catholics.”
Maajid Nawaz, former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and executive director of the Quilliam Foundation, urges a more pro-active stance of the state in integrating Muslims in the Republic of Ireland. Speaking at the World Summit Against Extremism in Dublin, he emphasises the question of identity as crucial to the integration of Muslims. The state and the public need to engage in a debate on national identity in order to avoid the mistakes of other European countries where there are often tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims and a lacking sense of belonging felt among Muslims to a particular society. Therefore, Irish society needs to engage with the grievances of Muslim, ‘real or perceived’. Of particular importance, according to Nawaz, is the promotion of ‘counter-narratives’ against extremism and radicalism by charismatic Muslim leaders who stir young Muslims away from violence.
23 June 2011
Yusuf Qaradawi (b. 1926), the prominent Egyptian-born Islamic scholar who is based in Qatar and considered to be the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, cancelled his participation at the annual meeting of the European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR) to be held in Dublin next week due to ill-health. The secretariat of the ECFR is based in the premises of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, in Clonskeagh, South Dublin, the largest mosque in Ireland. Qaradawi visited Ireland several times in the past to attend the regular meetings of the ECFR, held in Dublin.
Cables published on Wikileaks indicate the regular monitoring of mosques in Ireland by US diplomatic personnel stationed in Ireland following requests of the US State Department. Detailed dossiers on different mosques were compiled containing information on the main mosques in Dublin and their leaders, fundraising activities of suspected extremists, the main mosques’ connections to the Muslim Brotherhood as well as on divisions between Sunnis and Shiis in Ireland.
The cables indicate that attempts to establish links with Sunni mosques were met with suspicion by their leaders while close contacts were established with the Iraqi Shii community. The Shii community in particular provided the Dublin US embassy with information on activities of Muslim extremists in Ireland – though diplomatic staff assessed that the information provided by the Shiis contained “some exaggerations and inaccuracies”. The cables also reveal the interest of the State Department in identifying and establishing links with “moderate Muslims promoting tolerant forms of political Islam”.
Up to 30 alleged al-Qaida sympathisers living in Ireland were under police and military intelligence surveillance, according to the cables. The US embassy after meetings with the then prime minister Bertie Ahern, ministers and senior officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice accused the Irish government of “complacency” in addressing the potential threat of terrorists.
Other cables describe the scepticism of some Muslim parents about the full integration of their children into Irish society and an emerging generational conflict between first generation Muslim migrants and their Irish-born children. The US embassy also criticised lacking initiatives of the Irish government to facilitate the integration of Muslims. However, another cable characterised Muslims in Ireland overall as “content and moderate”.
29 April 2011
A leaked cable of the US embassy in Dublin, sent to the US State Department in July 2006, responds the Department’s request to assess the threat of Islamic extremism in Ireland and “to look at the role of Islamic thinkers across Europe”. The cable, published in WikiLeaks on April 25 2010, provides a survey of the major mosque organisations in Ireland and comes to the conclusion that only few Muslim leaders call for integration of Muslims into Irish society.
The European Council for Fatwa and Research whose secretariat is based in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, South Dublin, is depicted as “little more than a paper tiger”. The cable also notes the close connection of the Islamic Cultural Centre with the Muslim Brotherhood and Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
As one of the most pro-American voices among Muslim leaders in Ireland, the cable identifies the leader of the Iraqi Shii community, Dr Ali Al-Saleh, who tries “to provide the Irish public a balanced view of USG [US government] efforts in Iraq…”. The Dublin embassy assisted Al-Saleh in writing an opinion piece in the Irish Times, published March 18, 2006, on the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq which points in particular at the democratic benefits the US invasion has brought to Iraq.
In response to the leaked cable, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland downplayed its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, emphasising its openness for all Muslim worshippers and its rejection of the promotion of particular political agendas. Ali Al-Saleh, the clerical leader of the Shii community, confirmed the assistance he received from the US embassy in writing the opinion piece stating: “The Shias were supportive of the role the US played in getting rid of Saddam Hussein. We were pro-US in terms of their role in promoting democracy in the region.”
Musician and song-writer Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, is going on tour again after a 33-year break. After converting to Islam in 1977, he stopped performing altogether, and only resumed his musical career around 2001. He slightly changed his position on the permissibility of music in Islam, and from then on performed music that he considers halal, using only particular instruments and placing a strong emphasis on the spiritual or philosophical lyrics.
He opened his comeback on stage with a concert in Dublin, which saw a sold-out arena and enthusiastic fans, but also some angry reactions. A small group within the audience marred the show by booing and some abusive comments. In a reaction statement in The Times, Yusuf Islam said he was shocked and these people should not expect him “to return to the Cat Stevens persona of yesterday”, but also that he is glad to be back.
A first-of-a-kind faith school will be launched in Ireland under the patronage of Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders to accommodate pupils from the three religions under the same roof. “Instead of having one patron, the school will have tripartite patronage,” said Mary Shine Thompson, chairperson of the Intercultural Interdenominational Primary School (IIPS). Enrolment in the tri-religious school in Kildare county, southwest of Dublin started on Monday and it is due to open its doors by the next academic year. Unlike most schools, which are run under the Roman Catholic Church, IIPS will have a joint Catholic, Islamic and Jewish supervision. The project’s main sponsors are Dr James Moriarty, the Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Rabbi Charles Middleburgh of the Dublin Progressive Jewish congregation and Imam Hussein Halawa of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland. Founders say the school will be the first of its kind in Europe, capturing the ethos of three religions together.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=1D448EB74CD8FF952FC5DFC5&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=Front%20Page%20News
Up to five Muslim schools and six Catholic schools could be opened next year, as part of the plans for the New Schools Advisory Committee of the Department of Education. The five Muslim schools planned are for Lucan, Clonee, and Tallaght in Dublin, Tralee, Co Kerry, and Sligo – to cater for the demand of the growing Muslim population in these areas. Chairman of the North Dublin Muslim National School Shahzad Ahmed said: The Catholic schools have catered well for Muslim children but their parents might feel they are uncomfortable when it comes to teaching religion. Two Muslim schools already open in Dublin teach the same curriculum as all schools, but include Arabic language lessons, which include religious instruction.
A new school in Balbriggan, Ireland opened recently as an emergency measure when officials realized they had no school for local children – almost all Irish-born children of immigrants. Just north of Dublin, the Braken Educate Together National School serves the town’s wave of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern European countries. The opening of the school led to headlines across Ireland, as the mostly black school was cited by critics as an example of racism, apartheid and that the Catholic Church was excluding children. Others cite this as a misunderstanding, and a community’s rushed decision to plan a much needed educational facility.