Muslims in Ireland gather to mark Eid al-Fitr after restrictions on worship ease

Celebration at end of Ramadan marred by deaths in Palestine, says Immam council

Fayez Al Dali, from Sandyford in Dublin, with his daughter, Almanar al Dali (6) and son Jassar al Dali (2) at the mosque in the Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Fayez Al Dali, from Sandyford in Dublin, with his daughter, Almanar al Dali (6) and son Jassar al Dali (2) at the mosque in the Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

 

Easing of pandemic restrictions on public worship this week could hardly have happened at a better time for Ireland’s estimated 110,000 Muslims as they gathered at approximately 85 mosques or similar to mark the end of Ramadan on Thursday.

One of the two great festivals in the Muslim calendar, Eid al-Fitr is a breaking of the fast that was Ramadan, which began this year on April 12th. The major annual Muslim festival, Eid al-Adha, which marks Abraham’s (Ibrahim’s) devotion to Allah, will be celebrated on July 20th.

However, as elsewhere, celebrations of Eid al-Fitr in Ireland on Thursday have been marred by ongoing events in the Middle East.

“While we are rejoicing and celebrating here our thoughts and prayers are with the Palestinians who are being martyred, may their souls rest in peace,” said Dr Ali Selim on Thursday morning at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin’s Clonskeagh.

Yousaf Shiawari after attending Eid al-Fitr prayers. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
Yousaf Shiawari after attending Eid al-Fitr prayers. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

As he spoke people were gathering in the mosque for 8.30am morning prayers led by the Imam, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, also chair of the Irish Council of Imams. On Wednesday, he and 21 other Muslim representatives in Ireland issued a statement condemning“the violation and defilement of Al Aqsa Mosque and the attacks against Muslim worshipers in Jerusalem Al-Quds.”

Dr Selim, spokesman for the Irish Council of Imams, said what was happening to Palestinians took place in full view “of international bodies” and encouraged an opinion that “there are double standards when it comes to Muslim issues.”

From left Husna Halim, Anis Amirrudin, Farra Mohamed, and Laili Hadi at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
From left Husna Halim, Anis Amirrudin, Farra Mohamed, and Laili Hadi at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

He pointed out how “in this very blessed time that Muslims are supposed to be celebrating, the Israelis are killing them. We see blood all over the place and nobody is stopping this barbaric behaviour being perpetrated by the Zionist entity,” he said.

At such a critical time he was “very proud to be living in Ireland, seeing the Irish attitude. We’ve seen Ireland speak aloud about these crimes perpetrated over there, we’ve seen calls made by TDs. We welcome that,” he said.

In his view Ireland should put pressure on the European Union, stressing “there is no way to justify something like this .” It was “another Holocaust and if the Jews commemorate the Holocaust today I believe the Muslims will be commemorating what is happening today in Palestine for the rest of their history,” he said.

Israel will only listen if people start talking in economic terms. Israel is investing a lot in the European Union and it will be a very painful step if the European Union imposes sanctions on Israeli products. That is the language they understand,”he said. “I believe in peace, peace for everybody. It has to be on a fair basis. There has to be justice and equality for everybody,” he said.

As he spoke loud chanting of prayer from the mosque dominated all, while more and more people arrived outside for later prayer sessions. In Dublin there are approximately 21 other mosques or places of Muslim worship.

Eid al-Fitr prayers at the mosque in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
Eid al-Fitr prayers at the mosque in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Fasting

Ramadan is a moveable event annually, as is Lent and Easter in Christian traditions. This can have consequences as people do not eat or drink during daylight hours during Ramadan.

It has meant that during summertime at our latitude, Muslims in Ireland have had to fast from as early as 2.30am to 10pm that night. However this year the fast began at 3.30am and ended at 9.15 pm. Its purpose in Islam, Dr Selim explained, is to inspire “the spirit of helping others, and self-denial.”

Though private prayer was allowed in places of worship all along, this was not the case at Clonskeagh, where the mosque remained closed. With the five daily prayers, approximately 1,200 would attend daily, “so it was closed in adherence to the restrictions issued by the State. No Friday prayers, unfortunately,” said Dr Selim.

Normally Eid al-Fitr celebrations attract 5,000 people to the mosque but, with some restrictions still in place, limits remain. People were asked to book online in advance. Today “we are offering five successive prayers and we are accommodating approximately 350 at each.We have a number of rooms where we limit the people in each room according to restrictions issued by the State, 50 people in each room,” he said.

Eid prayers at the mosque in Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times
Eid prayers at the mosque in Clonskeagh, Dublin. Photograph; Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

He believed that as many as 5,000 Muslim doctors work in healthcare in Ireland, three of who had died of Covid. Altogether “between 8 and 10” Muslims had died of Covid-19 in Ireland, he said.

Dr Selim warmly welcomed a letter, marking Eid al-Fitr, sent to the Irish Council of Imams and the Islamic Community in Ireland by President Michael D Higgins. The President thanked them for “the generous contribution” they make “to our lives together, on an ongoing basis, contributing to a more diverse, more inclusive and caring society.”

Dr Selim described the letter as “a wonderful gesture” by President Higgins.