CSO figures reveal increasing Muslim population

With the CSO revealing that the Muslim population is growing year on year, Hajar Akl looks at how multiple generations of Muslim people are integrating into Irish culture and making Ireland their home.

The Muslim population is the youngest religious group in Ireland, new Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures have revealed.

The figures, released by the CSO last week, show that the Muslim population has also increased by 28.9 percent since 2011, bringing the total number of Muslim people in Ireland to 63,443 people.

Sheikh Yahya Alhussein, Imam of Dublin Mosque on South Circular Road, said the fact that Muslims are the youngest religious group in Ireland is “an indication that Muslims are going to be here for a long time”.

A young Muslim child celebrating Eid. Credit: Hajar Akl

Sheikh Alhussein has been in Ireland since 1983. He said the presence of Muslims in different workplaces is much more evident today than it was back then.

“If you go to the city centre, or other places, you’ll find Muslims everywhere,” he said.

He said the country has changed since he has come here and has become more inclusive by providing a range of services to the “growing community, like halal restaurants and shops and, of course, mosques in different areas of Dublin and around the country.”

Sheikh Alhussein said there was only one mosque in Dublin until 1996. “There are now over 50 places for prayer around the country today.”

Mudafar Al Tawash has been the administrator of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland for the last ten years. He has been living in Ireland for the past 40 years and has noticed things change significantly when it comes to the Muslim population.

He said when they first came to Ireland, they set up the Muslim National School. Students of the school have since graduated and now their children are attending the school.

“We are starting to see the second generation,” Mr Al Tawash said.

“We are very pleased to see them because the second generation live as Irish and grew up in the Irish society and will play an important role in society. They will, inshaAllah [God willing], try to get rid of the stigma surrounding Islam,” he said.

Mr Al Tawash said: “The numbers are great. It’s great to see the young people are in good number because they will play a good role in the Irish society and will serve the country in a proper way.

“I think the future is very bright for Muslims here in Ireland because we have these younger people.”

Mr Al Tawash said the increase in the number of Muslims has helped Irish people to know more about Islam than ever before.

“People are spreading around Dublin and Ireland and are integrated very well and we are very lucky here in Ireland, unlike communities in different parts of Europe,” he said.

“I see a lot of Muslim women here in law, in the media, medicine, science, engineering and other fields,” he said.

He said he has high expectation for the new generation of Muslims growing up in Ireland.

“We are trying to encourage the youth, Islamic societies in colleges, and we’re trying to invest in younger generations,” he said.

Sheikh Hussein Halawa, Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, said the Muslim population in Ireland is relatively new.

Having a younger age group “is good because this means they will be better integrated into Irish society than older generations,” he said.

“Ireland has a promising future when it comes to multi-faith and cultural tolerance and integration,” he said. “The world is not as isolated as it used to be. It’s not even like a village, it’s even smaller. What happens anywhere reaches the other end of the world. So the presence of different cultures in this country is like gathering the whole world in one place.”

Sheikh Halawa has been in Ireland for 21 years. Today, he sees a “huge difference” to how things were in the past.

Sheikh Hussein Halawa, Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, with Cormac Devlin, former Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, and President Michael D. Higgins. Credit: Hajar Akl

“Ireland has gotten to know a new culture and religion. When the population was small, there wasn’t that much awareness, but now there is,” he said.

“A lot of Muslims in Ireland are very educated. This indicates the intellect of this group of people,” he said.

“My hope is that this open communication between cultures [will] become the norm in the whole world. There are those who scare people of Islam and call for conflict. Those are the enemies of humanity. Islam is a religion of peace. My hope is for the world to understand that,” he said.

Hiba Aburwein, secretary of the Muslim Association of Ireland also reiterated the thought that Muslims in Ireland are very educated.

“The [Muslim] generations that are here really encourage their children to better their education. Most, if not all of them, are moderate Muslims who are helping to better the Irish economy and helping in improving the Irish community,” said Ms Aburwein.

She said it’s “very encouraging” to see the numbers about the young Muslim demographic because “young ages are the ones that build society”.

On the increasing numbers of Muslims in Ireland, she said: “We shouldn’t ignore that they are a growing community and part of society. If there are any policies that seek to alienate them, it will have a negative reaction. Muslims need to feel part of the Irish society.

“We should try to push the wheel towards treating Muslims as part of society, not treating them as strangers. All organisations should work towards this,” she said.

She said a large portion of Irish Muslims were born in Ireland.

“We hope that Irish people will accept them as Irish citizens because we feel that Ireland is our home. Muslim doesn’t mean immigrant. There are a lot of Irish Muslims and different generations. Society needs to accept that this is our home,” Ms Aburwein concluded.

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