Islam is Ireland’s third largest religion

There is more than one mosque or prayer centre in each province.

According to Census 2016, the results of which were published last April, 63,400 of our 4,761,865 population declared their religion as Islam.

A total of 3.7m declared themselves as Roman Catholic and 126,400 as Church of Ireland. After these two religions, Islam was the third most popular religion in Ireland.

Last year’s Census also marked a rise of 29% in the number of people registering themselves as a Muslim. In Census 2011, 49,200 people declared themselves Muslim.

Islam is now listed by the CSO as being one of the fastest growing religions in Ireland.

This growth has occurred in a very short period of time, considering the Islamic Foundation of Ireland (IFI) was only formed in 1959.

The headquarters of the foundation is at the Dublin Mosque and Islamic Centre on Dublin’s South Circular Road. This was the first mosque in Ireland which was established in 1976.

The IFI, which looks after the religious, educational and social needs of Muslims in Ireland, was originally formed by students who had travelled here to study.

“The first trickle of Muslims arrived in Ireland in the early 1950s. Initially, they came for education, especially to study medicine at the famous Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.

“Perhaps the Muslim students from the Republic of South Africa were the first to arrive in Ireland for this purpose. Students then followed from India, Malaysia, and the Gulf states. In the 1970s a number of trainees in aircraft engineering came to Ireland from Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia,” reads a document by the IFI.

It explains that when these students decided to stay on here to live and work, that is when the community was formed.

“When a number of students decided to reside in this country for work, and with the arrival of a number of Muslim businessmen and traders from the UK, the first resident Muslim community in Ireland was formed,” states the IFI document.

By the Census 1991, there were 3,873 Muslims living here, however, this is the year when the religious community began to grow.

From 1991 onwards, the number of Muslims increased considerably due to the arrival of Muslim refugees from Bosnia, Somalia, and Kosovo, as well as asylum seekers and professionals and workers from various Islamic countries.

Of the 63,400 Muslims currently living here, it is estimated they represent more than 40 different nationalities.

Muslim leaders here have spoken out against the recent terrorist attacks, carried out in the name of Islam, stating that there is nothing religious about their actions.

Shaykh Dr Umar al-Qadri, head imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland said his religion has been hijacked by those who are not true Muslims. “This is a holy month for us [the Islamic holy month of fasting Ramadan], true Muslims are fasting and praying not killing people,” Dr al-Qadri told the Irish Examiner.

He is also chairman of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council and said that people who carry out atrocities in the name of Islam, do not understand the religion. “These are extremists views that they hold. It’s a distorted view of Islam and they use this to justify their attacks.

“They are a minority but it only takes one or two before everyone is affected,” he said. Dr al-Qadri said it is up to all Muslim leaders to speak out. He also pointed out that his own community is affected by terrorist atrocities.

“With attacks [such as the one outside a mosque in Afghanistan] it is also Muslims who are being targeted,” he stated.

The imam explained the landscape for Muslims in Ireland and where they go to pray around the country.

The largest mosque is in Dublin, the Clonskeagh mosque or the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, which about 5,000 people attend. His mosque, the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre Ireland or the Islamic Centre in Blanchardstown has approximately 2,000 members and the IFI on the South Circular Road also has the same.

In Cork, there is the Muslim Foundation of Cork and the Cork Islamic Cultural Centre, each with approximately 500 members.

In the Galway Islamic Centre, there are between 500 and 1,000 members.

“Each mosque has its own influence,” Dr al-Qadri said.

Aside from the five qualified imams here, there are a number of “congregational leaders” who know parts of the Qur’an by heart who can lead prayer.

There is also an Irish Council of Imams, however, Dr al-Qadri resigned from this last year, “because of the lack of confidence and trust in the council.”

One issue he had pointed out to the council, prior to his resignation, was the growing radicalisation of young Muslims in other countries. Dr al-Qadri told the council this could be avoided in Ireland with “pro-active initiatives.”