Hundreds of Muslims from across the Republic of Ireland travelled to Dublin over the weekend to attend an anti-ISIS demonstration, organised by Muslim leaders deeply concerned about the problem of Islamic radicalisation in the country.
The “Not in Our Name” demonstration, which took place on Dublin’s famous O’Connell street on Sunday, was the first of its kind in Ireland. It was meant as a public show of Muslim solidarity against ISIS and extremist ideologies.
Approximately 300 Muslims attended the peaceful demonstration on Sunday afternoon, which, according to its organisers will be “the first of many anti-extremism demonstrations planned in Ireland this year.”
Dr Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, an Imam from the Al-Mustafa mosque in Blanchardstown and the man who organised the rally, told Newsweek that the protests are a collective attempt by Irish Muslims to stop radicalisation and “promote pluralism and tolerance” in their communities.
“There are unfortunately sympathisers of ISIS within Ireland and they are remaining silent,” Al-Qadri says. “They do not condemn the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS in the name of Islam. If they remain unchallenged they will grow like a cancer.”
“Our council does not want Ireland to have an Islamic extremism epidemic similar to that in the UK,” Al-Qadri says. “The British did not do anything to prevent extremism collectively, and now it is too late.”
Earlier this year, Al-Qadri founded the Muslim Peace and Integration Council (MPIC) which works with 25 other faith leaders from across the country, in cities such as Belfast and Cork, to dispel misconceptions about Islam and prevent extremism in Ireland.
On Sunday, MPIC revealed its ‘Declaration of Peace and Guide to Preventing Radicalisation,’ which has been drawn up “to leave no space in mosques for extremism to breed,” Al-Qadri says.
The guide advises mosques to hold open days and seminars for the local community to educate them on topics of Islamic theology so they are not vulnerable to radical preachers.
Although Al-Qadri vows that the protests are imperative in helping integrate young Irish Muslims and non-Muslims, some other faith leaders from large Muslim institutions across the country have questioned whether a mass public demonstration is even needed in the country.
Dr. Ali Salem, a theologian at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Ireland (ICCI), actually denies radicalisation exists in the country altogether.
He told the Irish Independent on Sunday that there is “no extremism in Ireland”. The country, he claimed, doesn’t have “the right environment” to allow extremism to prosper.
But Al-Qadri denounces this view, citing the numbers who have left the country for ISIS.
“People have left for Isis and this fact cannot be denied,” Al-Qadri says. “The silence and denial surrounding the problem by leaders is making the problem much worse.”
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria and Iraq, approximately 30 citizens are believed to have left their homes in Ireland to fight with ISIS, according to figures from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR).
Although the numbers from ICSR reveal that Ireland isn’t a particularly large exporter of foreign fighters to ISIS, the figure actually seems much higher when compared to the overall population of Muslims, which sits at just under 50,000.
Dr. Al-Qadri says he is now working with local community leaders to make sure his council’s comprehensive new guidelines and curriculum are introduced and implemented effectively in Irish Mosques over the coming months.