How big a problem is radicalisation in Ireland? That’s something mosques disagree on.
The number of people who have radical or extreme Islamic views here varies from a handful to over 100, depending on who you ask.
Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, an imam based in Blanchardstown and the chair of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council, thinks the risk of radicalisation in Ireland is “much smaller when compared to the UK” but that Muslim communities here “need to be vigilant”.
Al-Qadri said he believes there are “at least 100 people [in Ireland] that would be supportive to the form or understanding of Islam that Daesh (ISIS) adheres to, that all these militants adhere to”.
“This support does not necessarily mean that these people are terrorists, it means that they could support them, you know, ideologically. They may also support them financially.”
Al-Qadri said these people need to be monitored.
When asked how he arrived at the figure of 100 people, he told us: “I’ve been living here for the past 14 years. I have a lot of people throughout Ireland who are in contact with me and keep informing me about the various different activities that have been happening.”
A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said the organisation is “monitoring no more than 30 people living in this State” in relation to radical views.
During our interview, Al-Qadri placed an emphasis on Muslim leaders providing people with a “counter-narrative” to make them “immune” to dangerous ideologies. He said certain speakers who have been given a platform by some mosques in Ireland are “known to have had radical views”.
“They’ve had the opportunity to address Muslims, particularly youngsters, teenagers, and I think that is a problem.” He said mosques in Ireland should not invite “hate preachers” to speak to their congregations.
Dr Ali Selim, of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) in Clonskeagh, home of Ireland’s largest mosque, disagrees with some of Al-Qadri’s assessments. He’s less concerned with the threat of radicalisation in Ireland, saying it’s “not at all” an issue.
He also disputes that in the region of 100 people in Ireland hold radical views.
“I don’t think that’s true, I think the number is smaller. I cast huge doubt over the existence of individuals who are having radicalised thoughts in Ireland. Even if you travel outside of Ireland to Muslim countries or Arab countries, Ireland has a fantastic reputation, it is known as a friendly country. Muslims living here, they enjoy equal rights.”
Imam Ibrahim Noonan, who is based in Galway, is concerned about certain speakers preaching in mosques around Ireland. He said some of these people are “renowned for their extremism”.
“They have been coming here and they have been lecturing here. I can’t understand how the government allowed it. OK, they had British passports, but they’re here. I mean everyone knows it, everyone involved in Islam in Ireland knows they’re here and that they’re spreading their hate here.”
Noonan said if imams don’t support the more extreme views held by certain preachers, they shouldn’t invite them to speak here.
“If they don’t support it, they shouldn’t allow them in. They should have said ‘You’re not welcome here and that’s it, bye bye – you’re not coming in.’ But they allow them to come in because they are ‘renowned scholars’.
Concerns have been raised about some preachers who have been invited to speak at the mosque in Clonskeagh, due to their views on certain issues. One speaker in particular has been accused of making anti-Christian statements and defending female genital mutilation (FGM).
When asked about this particular speaker, Selim said: “I personally have never heard him inciting hatred or anything like that … I have never heard him saying that.”
Selim said, when the mosque invites a speaker to give a talk, the mosque itself decides the theme, rather than the individual.
There have long been rumours that the mosque in Clonskeagh is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. The mosque’s imam, Shaykh Hussein Halawa, has always denied this.
Documents published by Wikileaks in 2011 show that the US Embassy in Dublin had concerns about this possible link, as well as “radical” people supposedly meeting at the mosque.
The cable, written in July 2006 by then-US ambassador James Kenny, also discussed the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), whose general secretariat is based in Clonskeagh.