VICTORIA WHITE: Britain didn’t mistake Ireland for the IRA. Don’t confuse Islam with IS

Where would we be now if British prime ministers had conflated Irishness with terrorism, asks Victoria White. I might be just a south-county Dublin housewife, but I know more about stopping terrorism than Francois Hollande. I know you can’t defeat terrorists with military might. No matter what war drums you beat, no matter what arms you deploy, you can’t beat terrorists if there is an underlying injustice, some popular support and murderous fanaticism.

I grew up watching The Troubles from over the fence of the border, and reading a history of constant agitation against the world’s most powerful empire. Great Britain could not defeat piddling little Ireland, because of the underlying injustice, some popular support and terrorists with murderous intent. Whenever Britain attempted to crack the nut of Irish nationalism with a hammer, it missed and whacked itself in the leg. Think of the ‘terrible beauty’. Think of Bloody Sunday. Every time the empire put itself on a war-footing with Ireland, nationalism gained in strength. Look at the response to IRA atrocities — such as the Birmingham pub bombings, which killed 21 people — and compare them with France’s response to ISIS.

Imagine if the UK had gone in and bombed IRA bases, about which they must have had good intelligence. Imagine if some of those were in the Republic. Imagine, in other words, if open war-fare had been official between our two countries. Where would we be now? How many more innocent people would have been killed, simply because they were out enjoying life? Where would we be now if British prime ministers had conflated Irishness with terrorism, as David Cameron is conflating Islam with terrorism?

He says you can’t deny “any connection between Islam and the terrorists”, but you don’t need to state the connection, because it isn’t relevant. Terrorism is not an extremist version of Islam, any more than the IRA is an extreme version of being Irish.

Our terrorism was treated differently to ISIS less because it was on a much smaller scale and more because we are next-door neighbours. We know each other. We can look each other in the eyes. That makes dehumanising harder on both sides. If the UK had entered into open warfare with the IRA, she would have had to murder her own people, and people who look and sound just like her own people. But Syria is far away. The people speak a different language and they mostly have a different religion. The deaths of Syrians don’t seem like the deaths of real people.

That’s why Hollande can seek to win popular approval in France by launching murderous air strikes against Syria, which seem about as well-planned as a hurt child’s kick in the schoolyard. That’s why David Cameron can pose as a strong man in the British parliament, saying he will “personally build the case for RAF strikes against Syria.”

The ‘defeat’ of Al Quaeda in Iraq spawned ISIS in Syria, helped by the experience of prisoners from the American Bucca Prison in Iraq: “Bucca was a factory”, an ISIS fighter told The Guardian. “It made us all. It built our ideology.” That is no surprise to anyone who remembers the name ‘Long Kesh’.

How could the Americans have been so stupid as to think their illegal invasion of Iraq could bring stability — even their brand of stability — to the region? There was hardly an Irish person who believed that.

I want to hear the Irish voice appealing to the world powers to step back from war and concentrate on finding this political solution. I want to hear Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan, stating unambiguously that no Irish airport will be used by any foreign power launching futile military strikes in Syria, which will only succeed in forcing thousands more Syrians to knock desperately on our doors. This is a horribly historic moment and Ireland can’t stay silent but must speak up, loudly, bravely, forcibly, constructively, for peace.

Islamic community to fight against radicalisation of Irish Muslims

luck-of-the-irish-run-dry-islam-sharia
(Image: Craig Considine)

 

Ireland’s Islamic community is to spearhead the fightback against radical fundamentalism after a top Imam admitted there has been a surge in Islamophobia nationwide in the wake of recent terror attacks.

Shaykh Dr Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri launched a website for Irish Muslims aimed at helping youngsters to avoid radicalisation and to allow those concerned about so-called ‘Jihad messages’ from radical preachers at Irish mosques to raise the alarm.

The website – www.jihad.info – was launched at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) where Dr Al-Qadri warned that Irish people needed to realise that Islam was a religion of peace and tolerance and not violence. He admitted it was a particularly difficult time for Irish Muslims who were fast becoming a target of hate attacks.

“People feel very isolated and very worried,” he told the Irish Independent.

Children of Irish Imam arrested during Ramses Square mosque siege

Four children of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland’s largest mosque, were arrested on Saturday, 17 August 2013, following the overnight siege of the Al-Fath Mosque near Ramses Square in central Cairo. Three of the imam’s daughters and his teenage son took part in the march leading to Ramses Square on Friday, 16 August 2013, after participating at the pro-Mursi sit-in near the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Mosque.

They are held in military detention at the Tora prison in Cairo and are due to appear at court on Monday, 19 August 2013. As all four hold Irish citizenship, the Irish government has been asked to intervene with the Egyptian authorities in their behalf. Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Joe Costello, could confirm that they were “in good health” and that a Turkish diplomat had visited them.

The four siblings are among a growing number of young Irish of Arab background have been caught up in the events and turmoil around the Arab Spring for the last two years, undertaking online campaigns, setting up charities or joining rebel forces to fight initially in Libya and later in Syria.

Sheikh Hussein Halawa has been living in Ireland for the last 18 years. He heads the largest mosque in Ireland and is also the secretary of the European Council for Fatwa and Research which is based at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland. Both the Islamic Cultural Centre and the European Council for Fatwa and Research are funded by the Maktoum Foundation, led by Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai and Minister for Finance and Industry of the United Arab Emirates.

Man who threatened to kill Prince Harry ‘radicalised in prison’

Ashraf Islam walked into a police station in Hounslow and made threats to kill the third in line to the throne a day after the murder of 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich in London. Islam is thought to have changed his name from Mark Townley and converted to Islam while in jail in Northern Ireland. Islam had different aliases and a string of fraud convictions. After he admitted the threats to kill Prince Harry police found evidence on his laptop that he had visited terrorist and weapons websites. The 30-year-old pleaded guilty to making threats to kill at a hearing in Uxbridge and is in custody awaiting sentence. There are fears Prince Harry could be a target for the Taliban after he completed two tours of Afghanistan, and his security had already been stepped up following the murder of Drummer Rigby.

 

New book – Islam in the West: Iraqi Shi’i Communities in Transition and Dialogue

430905_cover*Islam in the West: Iraqi Shi’i Communities in Transition and Dialogue*

By Kieran Flynn

Oxford: Peter Lang

259 pp. | ISBN 978-3-0343-0905-9 | £40.00

This book studies the historical, religious and political concerns of the Iraqi Shi‘i community as interpreted by the members of that community who now live in the United Kingdom and Ireland, following the 2003-2010 war and occupation in Iraq. It opens up a creative space to explore dialogue between Islam and the West, looking at issues such as intra-Muslim conflict, Muslim–Christian relations, the changing face of Arab Islam and the experience of Iraq in the crossfire of violence and terrorism – all themes which are currently emerging in preaching and in discussion among Iraqi Shi‘a in exile. The book’s aim is to explore possibilities for dialogue with Iraqi Shi‘i communities who wish, in the midst of political, social and religious transition, to engage with elements of Christian theology such as pastoral and liberation theology.

Contents: Shi‘i Muslim Migration and Settlement in Ireland and the UK – Shi‘i Religious Narratives in History and Ritual Memory – The Narrative of Emancipation Among Shi‘a in Iran – Narrative Shi‘i Opposition and Emancipation in Iraq – Shi‘i Political Empowerment in Iraq – Shi‘i Sermons and Narratives – Catholic Theology in Dialogue with Shi‘i Narratives.

Hundreds of fighters going to Syria ‘a threat to EU’

syriaSpeaking to the European Parliament’s home affairs committee, the EU’s anti-terror chief Gilles de Kerchove said the departure of hundreds of young Europeans to fight in Syria poses “a serious threat” to Europe’s security.

A report released early this month by King’s College London said up to 600 people from 14 countries, including Austria, Britain, Germany, Spain and Sweden had taken part in the Syria conflict since it began in March 2011. The largest contingent was from Britain but based on population, the figures for Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands were the most significant, with around 200 between them.

NY Times Op ED: A Better Way to Talk About Faith

Is there a way to overcome religious intolerance?

Given global demographic changes, it’s a vital question. “The most certain prediction that we can make about almost any modern society is that it will be more diverse a generation from now than it is today,” the political scientist Robert D. Putnam has written. “This is true from Sweden to the United States and from New Zealand to Ireland.”

In the United States, the question holds special significance for the simple reason that American society is highly religious and highly diverse and — on matters concerning faith — considerably more politically polarized than a quarter-century ago.

The United States prides itself on welcoming people of different faiths. The Bill of Rights begins with a guarantee of freedom of worship. In 1790, George Washington sent a letter to a Jewish congregation in which he expressed his wish that they “continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants,” and declared that the government “gives to bigotry no sanction.” In 2010, Mayor Bloomberg’s impassioned and courageous defense of the Cordoba House — the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” — became an important addition to a long and noble tradition of inclusion. (It’s a speech worth reading.)

Muslim women requested to remove headscarf for new Irish immigration card

Several Muslim women were asked to remove their headscarves for a new type of the Irish immigration certificate, known as Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) card which is issued by the Garda (Irish police). This card includes the name, a photograph and other details of the card holder and serves as proof that the card holder is a legal resident in the Republic of Ireland.

The women approached the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), the major Sunni mosque in Ireland, located in Dublin, which has raised the issue with the police. According to Ali Selim, spokesperson of the ICCI, “the Garda representative showed understanding and acted promptly. Soon afterwards he confirmed to us that Muslim women would not be asked to remove their hijab. We are grateful for this prompt response. This is the inclusive Ireland that we are proud to be part of.”

The press office of the police referred to problems resulting from the implementation of the new system, while emphasising the police’s commitment to engage with various communities and to ensure that their particular needs are met.

Muslim families claim discriminatory admission policies of Catholic schools in Dublin

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.”

Local councillor calls for ban of full face veil in Ireland

Cork city councillor and former city mayor, Joe O’Callaghan, has called for a complete ban on the full face veil in Ireland. Following similar legislation in other European countries, O’Callaghan has submitted a motion in this respect to be debated at next month’s Cork city council meeting. His rejection of the full face veil is based on two grounds: he describes the full face veil as an “affront to women” incompatible with modern society and considers them to be a security risk. Representatives of the main mosque organization, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, rejected the proposal as discriminatory, while stating that the full face veil is not mandatory in Islam. Representatives of Irish immigration organizations characterized the motion as “childish, opportunistic and irresponsible” while doubting its seriousness.