‘Condemnation is not enough’, Dublin Imam tells congregation

Irish Muslims gather to remember the victims of New Zealand massacre

Iman Hussein Halawa from the Clonskeagh Mosque called for the criminalisation of Islamophobia. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy

Iman Hussein Halawa from the Clonskeagh Mosque called for the criminalisation of Islamophobia. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy

 

The discreet presence of a garda in the grounds of the Clonskeagh Mosque signalled that this was no ordinary gathering for Friday prayers.

The mosque is the biggest and one of the oldest in the country. Built in 1994 when the Muslim community in Ireland was tiny, now even its large car park cannot take the overspill and the congregation park in the little side streets outside.

Friday prayers are segregated. The men and women have different entrances. The men occupy the ground floor; the women the balcony area. A group of 50 people from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), who were booked as guests to attend long before the New Zealand terror attacks, were also present.

They heard a long and impassioned sermon from Imam Hussein Halawa who spoke without notes for a half an hour in Arabic. A simultaneous English translation was provided.

“I don’t think condemnation is enough,” he told the packed congregation blaming “certain media outlets” for stirring up hatred against Muslims and for the subsequent attacks. “Islamaphobia should be criminalised.”

All human beings are descended from Adam and Eve, he stated, and Allah made all of us as nations and tribes to run together. Terrorism should be condemned whether it comes from individuals, groups or nation states. Islam is a religion of peace.

When he started his sermon, the ground floor of the mosque was half-full. By the time he was finished it was full - a consequence of the lunchtime scheduling with congregants drifting in from their places of work.

Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, which is adjacent to the mosque, said his phone had been pinging from early morning with messages of support following the attack not just from his fellow Muslims but from those in the wider community.

Cohesiveness

He was confident that such an attack could not happen in Ireland though it happened in New Zealand. Despite the presence of a garda, he said the centre had taken no special security precautions in the wake of the massacre.

“We have no fears here in Ireland. Muslims are an integrated part of the broader Irish society. The Muslim and State leaders have been working together to create the cohesiveness we have been enjoying for a long time,” he said.

“We don’t have these tremendous loud crying for Islamophobia and white supremacy in Ireland. We hope that people will not try and import these problems into our society here.”

Shaheen Ahmed from Pakistan arrived in Ireland in 1981. He has worked with both the Pakistani and wider Muslim community in integration.

“This is such a wonderful country,” he said of Ireland. “I never felt in any sort of danger here. Our society here is well integrated and peaceful. I am so happy living in this country. If I had been attacked I would have left long ago.

“I can’t imagine in Ireland or in New Zealand that any such thing could happen. Our prayers goes out for the families of those victims who have lost their lives.”

Walid Nekidech, originally from Algeria, said the attacks were the “logical consequence of where worldwide politics is going with Donald Trump in America and these new supremacists”.

“I feel the police and the international security services is focused only on Muslims because there are a lot of us. They don’t focus on that other part of the equation of fear and terrorism. Because we are brown we are easy to spot. A white man has all the privileges.”