Muslim group urges acceptance of niqab


THE IRISH Council of Imams, a group which represents Muslims living in Ireland, has spoken out against attempts to ban the niqab elsewhere in Europe and called on members of the religion to contribute positively to the societies in which they are living.

The council said that a ban on the niqab – a veil worn by Muslim women that covers everything except the eyes – violates personal freedoms guaranteed by democratic systems.

It added that such bans also constitute an obstacle to multiculturalism, integration and human rights.

Its comments come following moves by governments in several countries to restrict the wearing of niqabs.

The council’s secretary general Ali Selim told The Irish Times the decision to issue a statement on the wearing of the niqab followed on from widespread media attention on the issue.

“While there is no problem with the niqab in Ireland, it is something which is being debated in many places right now,” said Mr Selim.

The Irish Council of Imams, which represents 14 imams and includes those from Sunni and Shia traditions, also called on Muslims living in Europe, and in particular in Ireland, to contribute to the societies where they live and seek to integrate in a way that enables them to preserve their identity.

In addition, it urged Muslims to refrain from violence and instead tackle problems through constitutional and democratic means.

“Muslims are the minority in most countries and are therefore faced with many challenges and how they deal with these is important,” said Mr Selim.

The council has welcomed the proposed tax changes to attract businesses from the Islamic world, which are included in the Finance Bill, published this week.

The Bill proposes the introduction of new measures designed to accommodate transactions that comply with Sharia law, based on principles contained in the Koran.

However, Mr Selim repeated the council’s call to financial institutions to launch Sharia-compliant financial services so that Muslims living here do not contravene religious teachings.

“There are about 50,000 people in the Muslim community in Ireland and it is a community that is continuing to grow.

“Many Muslims want to make investments here but cannot do so at present,” said Mr Selim.

“No institution has taken steps to introduce a product that Muslims living here can avail of, despite the fact that in the UK, moves have been made to do this, not only in terms of offering mortgages for houses but also Sharia-compliant business loans.”