Today in Ireland there is an undercurrent growing which is tearing away at the moral fibre of Irish society. It is causing division. It is creating an atmosphere of hate, a separation of people into 'us and them', and creating intolerance for minority communities and their cultural traditions.
It is certain ideologies, from newly established political groups, all who are expressing right-wing views, which have inflamed fear, anxiety, division and hate. When they demand that Ireland is only for the Irish, they mean “white Irish” and Ireland as a white Catholic Christian country. What we should be concerned about is such views gaining support in any area of society; among religious, political, or educational organisations; and among law enforcement and our armed forces.
Let us be frank about this, to treat an aliment one must first accept such a disease exists. These attitudes are not unique to Ireland. It has spread throughout the UK and Europe, but what is interesting is the main target of this ideology is Islam and migrants from Islamic countries.
For example, comments like “We don’t want these people here” or “We don’t want migrants from Syria, or any other such country, except Christians," have been made by a well-known right-wing advocate who shares his sentiments on social media and with whom I have debated on the radio. There was also a meeting in my hometown in Waterford, where a community meeting, called to help a Syrian refugee family as they arrived in Lismore, where the far-right turned up and made such comments as “You are going to be killed in the street or raped."
The result is an unjust cause of fear and anxiety, creating a situation where many Irish people become worried about Islam and even scared of Muslims. This has caused such fear among young girls and women who normally wear hijabs, but are now afraid to. Muslim women, living in the west, are being told to integrate. Yet, when they get involved in various sports, they are sometimes told they cannot compete if they do not remove the hijab! Others have experienced being unsuccessful in job applications due to wearing a hijab, despite being more than qualified.
Then there are those who tell us, 'Go back to where you came from.' It is comments like this which has led to attacks on mosques, just like our mosque in Ballybrit was attacked. I myself have received threats and been told 'You should be killed' on social media.
Islam, tolerance, and inter-culturalism
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat are flag bearers of the embodiment of tolerance as we are a persecuted Islamic community. Indeed the Holy Qur’an calls for the creation of a tolerant society among all faiths: “There is no compulsion in religion" (2:257 ); “And let there be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin equity and forbid evil and it is they who shall prosper" (3:105 ); "You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin what is right and forbid evil and believe in Allah." (3:111 ).
Such verses provide the template of how Muslims are to live. At the core of this is “Taqwa" (righteousness ) - that Muslims must act upon goodness, justice, equality for men and women for all parts of society from all faiths and belief systems, which are part of a multicultural society. Let me share with you some of those teachings of tolerance and given by the Qur’an and the practice of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
True Muslims firmly believe that all humans are born equal and that regardless of differences of belief, the values of mutual respect and tolerance must be firmly embedded within society - Hadrat Mirza Masoor Ahmad
To promote understanding is for it to be put into practice at every level of society from the top down: Neighbours: “Behave beneficently towards the neighbour that is a kinsman, and the neighbour that is a stranger and the companion by your side" (4:37 ). The Holy Prophet said, “He who behaves ill towards his neighbour is not a believer, nor can ever be one.”
On friendship and brotherhood: “Call to mind the favour of Allah that He bestowed upon you when you were at enmity with each other, and He united your hearts with love so that by His grace you became as brethren." (3:104 ). The Holy Prophet Muhammad said; "When you feel friendliness towards another, enquire from him his name, the name of his father and who is his people are, for all these exchanges promote friendliness.”
On courtesy and good behaviour: “Allah enjoins equity and benevolence and graciousness as brethren kindred; and forbids evil designs, ill-behaviour, and transgression." (16:91 ). One of his companions asked the Holy Prophets, what is the best that has been bestowed upon man? He answered: "Good behaviour, there is no greater wisdom than foresight; no greater piety than abstention from evil, and no greater goodness than good behaviour.”
The above verses of the Qur'an, Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet ), and practice of the Holy Prophet, which I shared with you, are only a fragmentation of the volumes that can be cited demonstrating that Islam promotes tolerance in a multicultural society
His Holiness Hadrat Mirza Masoor Ahmad [pictured below], the Khalifah of Islam, and spiritual world leader of the Ahmadiyya worldwide Muslim community, on recent trip to Europe, addressing UNESCO in France, praising the organisation's objectives of promoting peace, the rule of law, and human rights, said, "You may be surprised to learn that Islamic teachings require Muslims to work towards fulfilling theses same objectives and to continually strive for progress of humanity."
His Holiness also pointed out that, as the Holy Qur'an states that Allah is 'Lord of all the worlds', that Muslims believe Him to be the creator and provider for all humankind, regardless of creed or colour. As a result, it is an incumbent religious obligation placed on Muslims to serve humanity without distinction of their religious, social or ethnic background.
Therefore, if those forces of objection, division, and hate, towards Muslims and other minority communities, would only educate themselves more about Islam and its teachings on tolerance and respect for all faiths, belief systems, and cultures, perhaps they would be more tolerant towards the Islamic communities in Ireland and indeed around the world.
As the Khalifah said during his speech in Paris: "True Muslims firmly believe that all humans are born equal and that regardless of differences of belief, the values of mutual respect and tolerance must be firmly embedded within society."
Ibrahim Noonan is the Imam of the Masjid Maryam Mosque in Ballbrit.