The Imam of a Galway mosque has warned that religious leaders in Ireland and the UK must “take a good look” at who is in their mosques in the wake of a string of terrorist attacks.
Imam Ibrahim Noonan of the Masjid Maryam Mosque in Galway made the comments following a number of terrorist attacks in the UK in recent weeks, and following a vandalism attack on his own mosque in Galway this week.
Imam Noonan was leading a prayer service at the mosque on the Old Monivea Road in Ballybrit on Monday night when rocks were smashed against the window.
Members of the local Ahmadiyya Muslim community were gathered inside the mosque for late prayer when it was vandalised.
Due to the holy month of Ramadan, Imam Noonan said there was “quite a sizeable number of worshippers” present, adding that there was “panic” amongst congregation members when the attack happened at 11.10pm.
Imam Noonan said it was a “calculated” attack which he firmly believes occurred as a result of what happened in London over the weekend.
“We have had incidents in the past where people have thrown stones at the mosque but these attacks would happen when no one was in the mosque.
“But these people, these people did this knowing that people were in the mosque so this was a deliberate attack and I do believe it was connected to what happened in London.”
22 people lost their lives in the Manchester Arena suicide bombing two weeks ago, while seven people were killed and almost 50 injured in three separate attacks in London over the weekend.
‘Nothing to do with Islam’
Imam Noonan said these jihadi terrorist attacks have “nothing to do with Islam”.
The Church of England leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, has said Muslim leaders should take responsibility for extremism – however Imam Noonan said he “totally disagrees” with this sentiment.
“He said that Islam must take responsibility for what’s happening and I totally disagree with this statement. Islam does not have to take responsibility for this because if Islam does not teach it, if it’s not indoctrinated in the Quran, then it has nothing to do with Islam,” he said.
He said it’s important the Muslim community come together and have a conversation as to how to prevent such extremism.
“We do have to have the conversation, even amongst the mosque, even amongst the imams in the mosque that why is this happening and how do we stop it?
“I’ve been quiet vocal on this for quite a long time now that all the Imams in Ireland and in the UK they have to take a good look at who is in their mosque and take not only a good look in their mosque, take a good look at the homes of the people who are coming to their mosque.”
He continued, “If an Imam comes across people with even a fragmentation of extremism, even the lightest form of it, he has to turn around and say in his mosque, ‘If you have such views you’re not welcome in this mosque’. That has to happen.”
Not at imminent risk
He believes Ireland is not at imminent risk of a terrorist attack.
“I still believe at the moment we’re far away from this but I do believe there are people here who are supporting it. Now, they may not have reached a level of wanting to take physical action but they are certainly at the level where they are vocal in the mosque so they’re vocal about supporting what’s going on in Syria, what’s going on in Iraq, even to the point they might even have sympathetic feelings towards Isis, this is definitely in Ireland.”
He made reference to the Waterford couple who were arrested earlier this year on suspicion of funding Islamic terrorism and said it is up to local leaders to help prevent this.
“It’s people like me, Imams like me, who have to speak up, speak out, and this is my country, this is my people, and I won’t allow anyone to harm the people of Ireland so I’m going to speak very loud, and I’ve been speaking loud, but I’m going to be speaking louder in the weeks and months to come.”
Meanwhile the Social Democrats’ Galway representative has called on Gardaí to step up safety measures for minority groups following the attack on the mosque.
Niall Ó Tuathail described the incident as “cowardly” and said he had recently written to local Gardaí to raise concerns about the emergence of an apparent neo-Nazi group in Galway.
“This cowardly act does not represent Galway or Galwegians. Unfortunately, there are a small minority of people who want to make Muslims and other communities feel unsafe. This cannot be tolerated in any form. People of Muslim faith are welcome in Galway and contribute to the diversity and vibrancy of the city,” Mr Ó Tuathail said.
Galway Senator Alice-Mary Higgins also condemned Monday night’s attack on the mosque.
“We should all be fearful of allowing divisive or hateful rhetoric to shape our response to the appalling terrorist attacks of recent weeks, instead we should take inspiration from the many voices who have responded with unity, courage and love. Ireland’s own past should strongly caution us against the scapegoating of any particular group or community. I stand in solidarity with all those in Galway and across the world who seek peace and healing at this time.”