1916 centenary: Eight diverse people discuss Irishness and their identity
In this centenary year, Joyce Fegan asks eight diverse people about Irishness and their identity
Umar al-Qadri: I embrace Irish culture and want to be embraced
First and foremost, my family, my children, were born in Ireland. They were born Irish. They go to an Irish school, our local national school, and they play GAA. I hope, one day, they’ll be wearing the Dublin jersey in Croke Park. That is my family, and my children are part of the new Ireland. My wife and myself are introduced to the Irish culture through our children, and we are embracing it and we want to be embraced by it.
The community that I represent, the Muslim community, has had a wonderful experience of being welcomed. The country is known for its hundreds of thousands of welcomes. It is known for its ‘Cead Mile Failte.’ The experience is very positive.
The freedom that the Rising gave to the Irish, 100 years ago, it has now been extended by the Irish nation to the new Irish, to the new communities. The Muslim community, we don’t feel that we can’t be Muslim and Irish at the same time. We can be. I believe we can be very much Irish, and practising our faith, at the same time.
What does it mean to be Irish in 2016? Well, Ireland is a country known to build bridges, not build walls. I think that is very important. Even when there have been grievances in the past, it’s a country that has been known to build bridges and promote peace.
I think it’s important that we continue to embrace other communities, especially after events like in Paris and in Brussels. Terrorists commit atrocities in the name of our religion. It’s a war between the peaceful majority of people, from all backgrounds, and between extremists. And if the Muslim community would be victims and marginalised, because of these extremists, it means it would not be positive for the experience of integration. Therefore, it’s important to continue to embrace them and not hold them responsible for actions of a very small, extremist minority. Muslims in this country have been doing our best to prevent this radicalisation taking place, and we will continue to do so, because, at the end of the day, this is my country, this is the country of my children and my grandchildren, please God.
Imam Shaykh Dr Umar al-Qadri is head imam of the Islamic Centre Ireland