A leading Muslim cleric has expressed concern at the growing interest being shown by extremist Islamic groups in the UK in trying to radicalise young Irish Muslims and recruit them.
Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri said extremism was not yet a significant problem among Ireland’s estimated 60,000 Muslims, but the Irish Islamic community needs to be vigilant.
"A few years ago, radical Muslim groups would have had no interest in Ireland, but now I see they have an interest.
" I am seeing organisations that have their own offices in England and I am seeing them opening branches here and trying to get a hold in the Irish Muslim community," said Dr Al-Qadri.
He said he was aware of one radical Muslim who had moved to Ireland from the UK in December but he was not aware that he was attempting to radicalise or recruit Muslim men.
However, radicalisation does not require extremists to live in Ireland, as much grooming and recruitment is done via websites, as happened with the 30 or so Irish Muslims who have gone to Syria, he said.
According to Dr Al-Qadri, who is chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and
, the Irish Muslim community needs to educate its members to prevent any radicalisation.
"If we don't have preventative measures to make us immune from radicalisation, then we will end up like Muslim communities in Europe and the UK which have a significant problem with extremism.
“We need to ensure that certain things are taught in Islamic weekend schools – that young people are equipped with the necessary knowledge to interpret Islam correctly and know it is not violent.”
Dr Al-Qadri, the imam of the Al-Mustafa Mosque in Blanchardstown in Dublin, was speaking following a visit to Bandon Grammar School in west Cork where he spoke to students about Islam.
He said imams at mosques in Ireland have an important role in helping to prevent radicalisation among the Irish Muslim community.
“We also need to have workshops for Muslims – for both children and adults – to inform them that people who are killing in the name of Islam are misinterpreting verses and texts.”
Dr Al-Qadri said there had been an increase in Islamophobia following the November attacks in Paris and the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve but Irish people are generally tolerant.
“I think the Muslim community are feeling here what the Irish community was feeling in the UK 40 years ago when there were bomb attacks by the IRA. People are afraid,” he said.
“But I think Irish people, because of their own experience in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s understand the position of Muslims and know you cannot brush them all with the same comb.”