Islam in Dublin



Islam and Muslims in Ireland

1. A Historical Background on the Islamic Existence in Ireland.

The documented history of the Islamic existence in Ireland goes back to the 1950's. This was represented in the Muslim student's who came to Ireland to study. Before this time very little or nothing is known about Islam and Muslims in this country. The first Islamic Society established in Ireland was in 1959. It was established by the Muslim students and was called the Dublin Islamic Society (later called the Islamic Foundation of Ireland). At that time there was no Mosque in Dublin, the students used to pray Jumu'ah and the Eid prayers in houses or in rented halls. In 1969 the students started contacting their relatives and some Islamic organizations and Muslim countries for the purpose of collecting donations to establish a Mosque. In 1976 the first Mosque and Islamic Centre in Ireland was opened in a four story building at No. 7, Harrington Street, Dublin 8. Among those who contributed to the project of the Mosque and Islamic Centre was the late King Faisal ibn Abdel Aziz, In 1981 the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs in Kuwait sponsored a full time Imam for the Mosque. Since then there were four Imams who filled this post. A few years after the establishment of the first Islamic Centre and Mosque in Dublin, the Mosque itself became too small for the increasing numbers of worshippers. The Muslims in charge of the society started a second campaign to collect donations in order to establish a bigger Mosque. In 1983 the present building of the Dublin Mosque and Islamic Centre was bought, renovated and the headquarters of the Society moved from Harrington Street to 163, South Circular Road, Dublin 8. The building at Harrington Street was later sold as it was no longer used as a mosque, and for the money it generated some Waqf property was bought in the area of the new Mosque.

Some of the important dates in the Islamic existence of Ireland include:

? 1978, the Galway Islamic Society (in the west of Ireland) was established, and a house was rented to be used for the Jumu'ah and congregational prayers in the city.

? 1981, a house was bought in Galway to be used as a Mosque for the Muslims in the City.

? 1984, the Cork Muslim Society (in the South of Ireland) was established. Cork is the second largest city in Ireland after Dublin. A house was rented for the Muslims to perform their prayers.

? 1986, The Ballyhaunis Mosque in the Northwest of Ireland was built.

? 1990, the Muslim National School in Dublin was opened. It is the first Muslim school recognized and funded by the Irish Department of Education.

? 1994, a house was bought in the city of Cork to be used as a Mosque for the Muslims in the City.

? 1994, a house was bought in Limerick in the Mid-South of Ireland to be used as a Mosque for the Muslims in the City.

? 1996, the Islamic Cultural Centre was opened in Dublin following a generous donation by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Deputy Governor of Dubai and Minister of Finance and Industry in the United Arab Emirates.

? 1999, a branch of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland in the City of Waterford was formed. A house was rented for the prayers and classes for adults and children.

2. Islamic Organisations and Mosques in Ireland

2.1. The Islamic Foundation of Ireland:

Its headquarters is in Dublin. It is the mother Islamic organisation in Ireland. It was established in the name of the Dublin Islamic Society in 1959. Later on the name was changed to the Islamic Foundation of Ireland so that it could represent Muslims all over Ireland. The Foundation is registered as a 'Friendly Society' with the Registry of Friendly Societies since 1971. It is also registered as a charitable organisation. The Foundation has a written constitution and a Council, Majlis ash-Shura, which is elected every year by the registered members of the Society. Membership of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland is open to all Muslims in Ireland. Every Muslim in Ireland is an honourary member of the Foundation according to the Constitution of the Society. As for the right of voting and being elected, it is only confined to the registered members. The number of registered members at present is 1,384 from all over Ireland. The Foundation runs the Dublin Mosque and Islamic Centre. It has established a mosque in the city of Cork for the local Muslims in 1994, and supervised the construction of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin, which was donated by Sheikh Hamdam Al-Maktoum, and was officially opened in 1996. The financial recourses of the Foundation on which it depends to run it's activities include some of the houses which were bought after the establishment of the Mosque so that these houses would be used as Waqf, which are rented and the income used to cover the expenses of the Mosque and Islamic Centre. The Foundation also owns a shop for selling Halal meat and other food and a restaurant for serving daily meals, meals for the Islamic Centre's and private functions. With the growth of the number of Muslims in Ireland the financial burden upon the Foundation has increased. The only regular donation, which the foundation receives from outside Ireland, is part of the salary of the Imam of the Foundation, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs in Kuwait.

2.2. The Islamic Cultural Centre, Dublin:

In 1992, Sheikh Hamdan Ben Rashid Al-Maktoum, Deputy Governor of Dubai and Minister of Finance & Industry in the United Arab Emirates agreed to finance the purchase of land, which included a building, to house the Muslim National School (established in 1990). Later on Sheikh Hamdan agreed to sponsor the construction of a purpose built Mosque and Islamic Centre on the same site. Work started on the new Mosque and Centre in 1994 and was completed in 1996. In November 1996 the Centre was officially opened. The new premises of the Mosque and Islamic Centre was given to the Islamic Foundation of Ireland (which supervised it's construction) and lease was signed for thirty five years giving the Islamic Foundation the right to run it. So, in effect the Islamic Foundation ran both Mosques in Dublin, the old Mosque and New Mosque. However, after the passage of seven months the Islamic Foundation of Ireland was asked to abandon it's right in the lease of the property and reassign it to the newly formed Al-Maktoum Foundation (formed in 1997.) This move caused division and unnecessary trouble in the community. Although the reassignment of the lease to the Al-Maktoum Foundation has not been done as yet, the headquarters of the Islamic Foundation returned to the old Mosque in Dublin. The Islamic Cultural Centre is now run by the Al-Maktoum Foundation (all of it's Directors are from the United Arab Emirates.) This is done through a local committee, which is chosen by the Al-Maktoum Foundation.

2.3. The Cork Muslim Society:

The Cork Muslim Society was established in 1984. Its membership is open to all Muslims in Co. Cork. The local Muslims choose a committee annually to run the Mosque and community affairs. In 1994 a house was bought to be used as a Mosque and Islamic Centre for the Muslim community in Cork. There is a problem, which is facing the Muslims in Cork right now. This has to do with the refusal of the Local Authority to allow Muslims to continue using the house as a Mosque. The Cork Corporation is saying that Muslims have not obtained planning permission to change the use of the property from a single dwelling into a Mosque. This problem arose after complaints were made to the Cork Corporation, the Local Authority regarding the manner in which Muslims park their cars when they attend the Mosque on Fridays. This is something, which caused traffic chaos in the area. Right now the Muslims in Cork are seeking to obtain a more suitable place, which is a bigger house with parking facilities. This is especially needed in light of the increase in the number of Muslims in Cork.

2.4. The Galway Islamic Society:

The Galway Islamic Society was established in 1978. In 1981 a house was bought in Galway to be used as a Mosque. Membership of the Galway Islamic Society is open to all Muslims living in County Galway in the west of Ireland.

2.5. Ballyhaunis Mosque:

Ballyhaunis Mosque was built in 1987. It is considered to be the first purpose-built Mosque in Ireland. There are only two Mosques of this type in Ireland at present; the Ballyhaunis Mosque and the Mosque of the Islamic Cultural Centre, which was donated by Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum. The Ballyhaunis Mosque is a small mosque, which accommodates about one hundred and fifty worshippers. It was built by a Muslim businessman called Sher Rafique who used to own a meat factory in that remote town in the North West of Ireland. Although the factory has gone bankrupt, and the owner and his family moved to Britain there is still a small Muslim community, which is using the facility of the Mosque at present.

2.6. Limerick Mosque:

There is a Mosque in the City of Limerick which local Muslims established and where congregational and Jumu'ah prayers are performed. The Mosque is run by the committee, which established it.

2.7 There are a number of houses, which are rented and used by Muslims for the Jumu'ah prayer as in Waterford city and Cavan.

3. Educational Affairs

3.1. Full time Education:

3.1.1. The Muslim National School.

The Muslim National School in Dublin is the first National School for Muslim children in Ireland. It was established by the Islamic Foundation of Ireland in 1990 for primary school children. The school was opened in temporary accommodation at the Dublin Mosque and Islamic Centre at 163, South Circular Road, Dublin 8. In 1993, the school moved to its present permanent accommodation at Clonskeagh, Dublin 14, following a generous donation by Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum. The school is recognised by the Department of Education in Ireland and is funded by the Department like other schools. The financial aid, which the school receives from the Department of Education in Ireland, includes the salaries of the qualified teachers who are recognised by the Department of Education. An annual capitation grant which amounts to 64.00 for every pupil in the school, paying 85% of the furniture costs plus some other small grants. As in all other state-funded schools, the Department of Education does not pay all the expenses of the school, but part of them. The school community has to come up with the rest of the expenses. The number of pupils in the school at present is 245. They come to the school from all over Dublin. The school owns four buses for the transport of children. In this school year (2000/2001) the Department of Education has agreed, for the first time, to provide free transportation for the School children. The number of teachers in the school is thirteen teachers from the Department of Education, whose salaries the Department pays, and there are also five part-time Muslim teachers for teaching Qur'an, Arabic and Islamic Education. The administrative hierarchy of the school consists of the Imam of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland as Patron of the school, then comes the Board of Management, which consists of two members appointed by the Patron, two members elected by the parents, the Principal of the school and a teacher's representative. The six members then co-opt two more members from the wider community. The school teaches the Irish curriculum for primary schools for the natural sciences and humanities (mathematics, science, English language, geography, history etc.). This is a condition, which must be met in order for the school to be recognised and funded by the Department of Education. As for the teaching of religion it is entirely left to the administration of the school without interference from the Department of Education. The Qur'an, Islamic Education and Arabic language are taught in the school.

3.1.2. Muslim Children in other State Schools:

The Muslim National School in Dublin only caters for a limited number of Muslim children in the city. Therefore, the rest of the Muslim children go to local schools, which are run by different religious denominations (Almost all the schools in Ireland are run by churches and religious groups. The role of the Department of Education lies in providing aids to the schools after recognising them.) As there is no other Muslim school in any other city in Ireland, apart from Dublin, Muslim children in these cities go to local schools for their education. As there are no Muslim secondary schools in Ireland, all Muslim boys and girls, including those who attended the Muslim National School for their primary education, go to the schools of the different religious denominations for their secondary education.

3.2. Part-time Religious Education:

There are a number of part-time schools, especially during the weekend, which teach religious education, Qur'an and Arabic language to Muslim children. These schools include: One) Al-Falah Islamic School in Dublin. It is run by the Islamic Foundation of Ireland. Classes are held on Friday and Saturday of each week. Two) The Sunday Madrasa in Dublin Mosque and Islamic Centre Three) Nur Al-Huda Quran'ic School in Dublin. It is run by the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin. Classes are held three days a week, Friday, Saturday and Monday. Four) The Libyan School in Dublin. This is run by some Libyan Muslims. It follows the curriculum of the Department of Education in Libya. This school is open for Arabic children from Libya and other countries. It is run on Saturday and Sunday of every week. Five) There are a number of schools over weekends, which are attached to the Mosques in Galway, Cork, Limerick, Cavan, Waterford, Ballyhaunis, Belfast and other places.

4. The Muslim Cemetery.

In 1976 The Dublin Islamic Society bought a small separate plot in Mount Jerome Cemetery in the south central area of Dublin for burying deceased Muslims. By the end of the 1980's the Muslim plot in Mount Jerome Cemetery became full. This forced the Islamic Foundation of Ireland to look for another place. In 1990 the present Muslim Graveyard in Newcastle, County Dublin was obtained by a special agreement with the Dublin County Council. As the Muslim community in Dublin and Ireland is a small one there is no Muslim undertaker in Dublin or a Muslim office for Funeral Services as is the case in some other European cities. At present the staff of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland carry out the funeral arrangements, including washing the dead and burial in the Muslim graveyard. If a Muslim person dies, the Islamic Foundation of Ireland is notified, who in turn contact an Irish undertaker. The undertakers then remove the body of the dead person from the hospital to their own premises where members of the Islamic community wash the body of the deceased. The undertakers then transport the body to the Mosque for the funeral prayer and later to the Muslim cemetery to be buried; or if the family of the deceased wish to transport the body outside Dublin arrangements are made by this undertaker.

5. Recognition of Islam in Ireland:

Article 44 of the Irish Constitution for 1937 recognises the special position of the Catholic religion in Ireland, as the followers of Catholisism constituted the majority of the population of Ireland (over 90%). This article also recognises some of the Protestant denominations and Judaism. There was no mention in the article of the Islamic religion as there was no Muslim existence in Ireland at that time. This article has been deleted from the Irish constitution in 1972, and as such there is no article in the present Irish constitution which says that the State recognises certain religions and does not recognise other religions. However, practically the State recognises Christianity represented in Catholicism and the Protestant denominations and Islam and Judaism especially in the area of education, marriage and the participation of the representatives of Christianity, Islam and Judaism at official State functions.

6. Muslim Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Ireland.

In recent years a sizable number of Muslims came to Ireland in the form of refugees who were forced to flee their countries because war, or in the form of asylum seekers who fled their countries because of the political situation in their homelands. The first group of the Muslim refugees arrived in Ireland in 1992. These were the Bosnian Muslims who were forced to leave their countries after the Serbs occupied their cities in Eastern Bosnia. The number of the first Bosnian refugees who arrived in Ireland was 350 persons. Some military personnel and civilians who were injured in the war, and who were brought to Ireland for treatment followed them. At a later stage, the families of the refugees and the injured people joined them. The number of Bosnians in Ireland at present is about 1,200 persons. Many of these people obtained Irish citizenship and only a few of them returned to Bosnia after the end of the Bosnian war. The Somali Muslims who were forced to leave their country as a result of the civil war constituted the second group of Muslim refugees who arrived in Ireland. The number of the Somali refugees at present is approximately 100 refugees. In 1999, about 1,300 Albanians from the Kosovo region arrived in Ireland. They were distributed in five Irish cities outside Dublin, the capitol. Approximately 200 of these refugees returned to their country after the Serbs had left Kosovo. There are still 1,100 Albanian refugees living in Ireland. The last years, starting from 1997, witnessed the arrival of a large number of Muslim asylum seekers. The number of these asylum seekers at present is approximately 3,500 including women and children. Most of these asylum seekers are from Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, Libya, Iraq and Egypt. The arrival of the refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland in recent years led to the increase of the number of Muslims in Ireland, to the extent that the facilities for Muslim activities have become too small to cater for the increasing numbers.

7. Some Statistics on the Islamic Existence in Ireland.

There are no accurate statistics on the number of Muslims in Ireland at present. According to the Irish census for 1991 the number of Muslims was 3,873 (the number of the Jews was 1581.). At the time of the 1991 census we used to estimate the number of Muslims at 6000. Perhaps that estimation was realistic if we take into consideration the number of Muslims who did not participate in the senses especially in the sector of the students. Unfortunately the Irish censes for 1996 did not include a question on religious affiliation. Since 1991 the number of Muslims increased considerably after the arrival of the Muslim refugees and asylum seekers, some professionals and businessmen, the increase in the students and also the increase of the newly born children in Ireland. We estimate the number of Muslims in Ireland at present to be 12,000. The number of students is about 2,000 Medical Doctors at about 2,000 and the rest, businessmen, professionals, workers, asylum seekers, children, housewives and others. Initially Muslims arrived in Ireland for higher education, especially the study of medicine in the famous Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. Perhaps the Muslim students from the Republic of South Africa were the first to arrive in Ireland for this purpose. Students then followed them from the Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman) and indeed Muslim students from Malaysia. In the 1970's a big number of Muslim doctors arrived in Ireland to specialise in Medicine and also a number of trainees in Aircraft engineering from Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia and some other Muslim countries. When a number of students decided to reside in this country for work, and by the arrival of a number of Muslim businessmen and traders from the U.K., the first resident Muslim community in Ireland was formed. There are still a big number of students from the Gulf and from Malaysia who are studying in Ireland. There is a good number of Irish Muslims who Allah guided to Islam and the percentage of Irish Muslim women is bigger than that of the men. There is also a number of European Muslims who are living in Ireland. As for the nationalities of Muslim s living in Ireland and the Countries from which they came, there are about 40 nationalities at present. As to the ideological belonging of Muslims in Ireland the vast majority are Sunni Muslims. There is a small minority of Shi'at from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and some Gulf states. There is a centre (Husseiniya) for the Shi'at in Dublin.

8. Muslims in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland consists of six counties, which remained under the British crown after the independence of the Republic of Ireland (26 counties) in 1992. The beginning of the Islamic existence in Northern Ireland goes back to the end of the 1940's or the beginning of the 1950's. This was represented in the students who came for study. The number of Muslims in Northern Ireland at present is around 3,000. Most of these Muslims live in Belfast, the Capitol City of Northern Ireland. The rest live in Craigavon, Londonderry, Ballymena, Coleraine, Bangor and Lisburn. The Muslims in Northern Ireland come from different countries including Pakistan, India, the Middle East, North Africa, Malaysia etc. There is a small number of Northern Irish Muslims. The first Mosque in Northern Ireland was opened in a small house in the city of Belfast in 1980. The Mosque was located in the centre of the city near the Queen's University of Belfast. After four years (1984) the Mosque was moved to the present building at 38, Wellington Park. There are efforts at present to establish a bigger Mosque in Belfast. Belfast Mosque is the only Mosque in Northern Ireland at present. There was a small Mosque in the city of Craigavon, but unfortunately, it was burned in 1997. Since then the Muslims in the region of Craigavon perform the Friday prayer in a hall in the city, and at the same time are considering re-establishing the Mosque at a new site.

9. Problems and challenges facing Islamic work in Ireland.

a) The upbringing and education of children in the non-Islamic environment. Many of the young Muslim generation lack a proper Islamic education; therefore many of them could easily deviate.

b) Mixed Marriages with all the problems accompanying them, such as marital disagreement and divorce due to the different cultural backgrounds. Children suffer as a result.

c) Insufficient financial resources due to the small size of the community in Ireland. The lack of Mosques in many cities. On the other hand the existing Mosques are small and do not satisfy the needs of the Muslim community.

d) The teaching of the Arabic language for the new Muslim generations, even to those from Arabic background.

e) Differences and disagreements between Muslims, especially those who are affiliated to different Islamic groups even though the vast majority of Muslims in Ireland do not belong to any particular Islamic group. Most of these disagreements and disputes appeared after the arrival of asylum seekers in Ireland.

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