Higgins sets out his vision of multicultural Ireland


President Michael D Higgins has said the Government should, during its EU presidency, encourage “a long overdue understanding” necessary to remove ignorance and misunderstanding that can lead to “incipient forms of racism”.

Mr Higgins was speaking at the launch of Neighbourhood Week, an annual event at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh where the public is welcomed to Islamic cultural events.

At the event, also attended by Minister of State for Health Alex White and Mayor of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Tom Joyce, Mr Higgins said it was his wish that “the Europe we aspire to does not recoil from fears based on ignorance”.

Mr Higgins told members of Ireland’s Islamic community that Islam was now “our fastest-growing religion”. Accompanied by his wife, Sabina, he said being a multicultural society was “more complex than simply accepting other cultures” or “allocating conditional rights”.

He said there were dangers in “allocating a separate and segregated space to individual cultures” and the “ghettoising of ethnic groups and the erection of cultural barriers, built on fear, prejudice or ignorance” was to be “avoided at all costs”. He said Ireland’s new citizens had “an important part to play in shaping and crafting our shared future”.

Practising equality

He said if we are to “practise equality”, we must understand that “‘belonging’ is not based on imitation or the subservience of one culture to another”.

Diverse cultures should instead “bring about a new sense of human solidarity” and an understanding that “integration is a two-way process”.

Welcoming Mr Higgins, the Islamic Cultural Centre’s Shaheen Ahmed said the President was “highly respected in the Islamic world” due to his “absolute support for the freedom of Palestine and campaigns against the war in Iraq in 2003”.

Timeless Islamic Art, the 11th annual Neighbourhood Week, features calligraphy, embroidery and the work of Irish photographer Noel Bowler, whose photographs capture prayer rooms in Irish mosques. The exhibition is open from noon to 7pm until December 10th.