‘It’s a very special time’: Thoughts of Irish Muslim community with those in Gaza as Ramadan begins

Fasting beckons for people in bombarded enclave where food and water are already in short supply

Muslims in Gaza will have neither food to eat nor water to drink as they prepare for and end their daily fasts during the 30 days of Ramadan, senior Irish Islamic figures have said. Nor have they many mosques left to pray in.

“It’s a very special time of the year for Muslims,” said Dr Ali Selim, spokesman for Ireland’s biggest mosque, the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Dublin, of Ramadan, which begins today.

“We demand a ceasefire in Gaza to allow Muslims there the opportunity to mark it.”

Even with so much in Gaza having been destroyed since Israel began bombarding the enclave following a deadly Hamas attack on October 7th last, he said “people can be seen still praying outside where mosques used to be”.


“They are hungry, but still have faith,” he said.

Dr Selim lamented the “unprecedented destruction” caused by Israel bombings which have affected mosques, churches and schools and shown “no respect for people as human beings”.

“And this affects Muslims in Ireland. So many have relatives in Gaza.”

Shaykh Umar al-Qadri, of the Islamic Centre of Ireland at Blanchardstown in West Dublin, compared the West’s current stance on Gaza to that of the world “as it looked on” while the Holocaust took place during the second World War.

“This is 2024, it’s disgusting. Europe, the US, have really failed humanity.”

He also noted how people in Gaza had resorted to praying outside destroyed mosques.

“For any human being to go through that is terrible. They have lost whole families, with only hope and faith left,” he said.

Both Dr Ali Selim and Shaykh al-Qadri have taken part in Dublin protest marches at the ongoing destruction of Gaza.

“Involved were people representing a broad cross-section of Irish society, not just the minority Muslim community,” said Dr Selim.

“Ireland is known for its neutrality and its fairness in dealing with Palestinians. Ireland is appreciated in this regard. But this year Ramadan is marked with sadness because of the destruction Gaza has faced and the many Palestinians killed, many with family in Ireland,” he said.

Shaykh al-Qadri, who has made an almost complete recovery following a recent assault in Tallaght, which remains under Garda investigation, has also taken part in many marches in Dublin calling for an end to the bombardment.

Last December, he took part in a Hanukkah candle lighting service outside the city’s Mansion House with members of Irish Jewish community including Rabbi Zalman Lent and Rabbi Yoni Weider of the Terenure synagogue.

Rabbi Lent told the service, during which six candles were lit on a menorah, that there were those who seek “to destroy the Jewish people, time after time, generation after generation – to extinguish our lights and the lights of our menorah”.

“But somehow we survive, and somehow the menorah does too. We lit the menorah wherever possible in the ghettos, in the concentration camps, during Inquisition and Holocaust. The lights may go out for a while, but they come back brighter than ever,” he added.

Explaining his presence at that ceremony, Shaykh al-Qadri said what was going on in Gaza “is not a religious conflict”.

“It is not a conflict between Islam and Judaism,” he said. “It is a political conflict, neither Islam or Judaism is involved. As faiths, we have much in common and should be doing more to build bridges in the Middle East.”

According to the 2022 census, there are 81,930 Muslims in Ireland, an increase of 32 per cent on the 2016 census total.

Dr Selim, however, places the ‘unofficial’ figure at some 120,000, with 30 places of worship in Dublin and 95 across Ireland. Many more recent Muslim immigrants work in healthcare, particularly at doctor and consultant level in hospitals.

Ramadan is a 30-day period when healthy adult Muslims are expected to fast from food and water – beginning at sunrise and concluding at sunset when, after eating and drinking, they take part in a special prayer ceremony each evening at a mosque.

Shaykh a-Quadri will, as an imam, lead gatherings every evening over the month with the additional Tarawih prayer at the Blanchardstown mosque.

Children, people who are ill, older people, as well as who are menstruating or pregnant, are exempted from fasting during this time.

“It is a spiritual exercise and a discipline when people can contemplate, pray, and feel what it is like to be deprived of food and drink, to feel empathy for those who are hungry and thirsty. It also encourages time spent with family and community, with gatherings every night in the mosque,” he said.

Ramadan is an annual event which moves forward 10 days every year and takes place at times and dates determined by the lunar calendar. At this time of year, with daytime and night-time approaching an even split, fasting is not as much an ordeal as it can be during summertime in Ireland, when days are far longer.

This can be a real problem in latitudes further north during summertime, when daylight can last up to 24 hours in some places. Then, Shaykh al-Qadri said, Muslims can resort to more usual daytime fasting times further south or fast from sunrise to sunset as in Mecca.

Ramadan ends with Eid, a major celebration, comparable to Christmas in most of the world, or Thanksgiving in the US.

Dr Selim recalled how as many as 5,000 people have taken part in Eid celebration at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh. He noted that in June 2017 the then newly elected Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attended. He would like to see him come again.

“I am inviting him to share Eid with us here at Clonskeagh this year, on Wednesday April 10th,” Dr Selim said.