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The dilemma of the moderates (pt 2)

Last update - Thursday, November 29, 2007, 00:00 By Metro Éireann

 Straight Talk with Sheikh Shaheed Satardien The Clonskeagh Mos-que, closely linked as it is with the Muslim Brotherhood, is to a great extent ethnic Arab in outlook and structure. What I wish to emphasise is that Arab Muslims are not the majority Islamic community in the State. There is a Nigerian Muslim leader who alone has more than three thousand followers in this country; no other Muslim leader can claim that. Yet he is not even regarded by these ethnocentrics as an imam. 

This is not to say that they must give him any recognition – as none of us need any recognition from them, nor would we accept it should they suddenly have a change of heart. Our constituencies and loyal supporters and followers are more than enough. That means that we are not even asking this Government to recognise us as leaders, as we do not really need that from them anymore.

However, what does need to be emphasised is that the mute Muslim moderate majority have the right to reject Clonskeagh’s self-appointed leadership until they denounce violence and suicide bombing; give the concept of integration more than mere lip-service; reject and oppose the physical abuse of women; and condemn the abhorrent act of female genital mutilation, among many other issues.

And I invite them to go and implement Sharia law in their own countries, where they would be detained just for uttering such words and drivel.

Considering the ‘level of ignorance’ aspect, it is to some degree understandable that State and State-supported entities deal exclusively with the Clonskeagh Mosque, as they do not properly understand the internal dynamics of the Muslim community.

It is more convenient for any administration to have one point of contact. But it is nevertheless very frustrating for other Muslim groups to be excluded from interaction with ‘official’ society in this way.

However, I always encourage the leaders of the various groups not to lose heart, and persevere in the fight against extremism and terrorism in the Muslim community, as we are normally the first casualties when the bombs go off.

We also have a duty to prevent any harm coming to any citizen of this country; everyone has the right to feel safe and not live in fear. I personally have a dream of seeing us live in harmony and peace with everyone and I fail to see any wrong in that, in spite of the hardship that I have incurred upon myself.

Nevertheless, what sort of message does the behaviour of those who seem to infantilise the Muslim community send to the moderates – and the extremists? What message does the Government send to the other communities in this society? Why does the Government send a representative to the Muslim community during Ramadan, but not to the Hindu community during Diwali, for example? Why this ‘special’ treatment?

The reality must be faced that there are extremist views within the Muslim community in Ireland, and the Muslim Brotherhood is at the head of this.

While there will always be some extremist views in any society, the difference here is  that the Muslim Brotherhood is unquestionably the mother of al-Qaeda, Jama’at Islamiyyah, Hamas, Hizbut-Tahrir and many others. The question now is what, if anything, are we going to do about it?

Perhaps, once again, the UK may have some lessons for us. As I have mentioned repeatedly, our nearest neighbour harboured extremist views within its Muslim community for years. Yet the ‘leaders’ of that community continually stated that was no homegrown extremism, and that any extremism was only in the form of disaffected youth.

We now know from the available evidence that both assumptions were totally false. Those Muslim leaders in Ireland who keep insisting that there are no extremists in Ireland are merely proponents of a heads-in-the-sand strategy, which has since been mostly abandoned by the UK Muslim leadership, in spite of some unhelpful statements issued recently by the Muslim Council of Britain.

Continued next week

Sheikh Shaheed Satardien is chairman of the Supreme Muslim Council of Ireland. He lectures in World Cultures and Contemporary Thought at the Free University of Ireland and is also imam of the West Dublin Islamic Society.

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