Islam is compatible with Western society, says imam


IRELAND:Exiled radical Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed delivered a pre-recorded video message to a packed house at Trinity College Dublin last night as part of a debate on Islam's compatibility with Western liberal society.

The self-styled cleric, who left Britain for Lebanon in 2005, has been banned from returning after the British government declared his presence "no longer conducive to the public good".

Those who attended the Trinity Philosophical Society debate hoping to hear some of the comments that have gained Mr Bakri notoriety were left disappointed. Instead, he spoke for more than 10 minutes on how Islam differs from other faiths.

"Islam involves political belief as well as spiritual belief and therefore cannot co-exist with another political system. There will always be confrontation between political beliefs," he said.

Mr Bakri discussed what he described as "secular fundamentalism" and said he believed in a "clash of civilisations". Speaking of attitudes to sharia law, he said: "Either you believe in sovereignty for God or sovereignty for Man - that is the conflict." He finished his message with an invitation to convert to Islam: "Go back to basics, go back to God," he said.

Doaa Baker, representing the Islamic Students' Society, criticised the organisers of the debate for inviting Anjem Choudhary, one of Mr Bakri's associates, to contribute to the debate. Mr Choudhary is a regular participant in the society's debates, and has previously said Ireland may be a target for a terrorist attack.

His presence as someone who was "neither a scholar nor a Muslim representative" served only to "fuel hatred and suspicion", she said. Several Muslim students stood in support of this statement.

Dr Ali al-Saleh, imam at the Shia mosque in Milltown, said Mr Choudhary and his associates represented a "sick ideology". He also criticised the organisers for inviting him and his supporters but added that their presence showed "how beautiful liberal society is". He said Muslims living in liberal societies such as Ireland could practise their faith, something some Muslims were prevented from doing in certain Muslim countries. "As a Muslim living in a very liberal society in Ireland, I can see the benefits of that society," he said. "Don't let them fool you, Islam is compatible with Western society."