DUBLIN – The Irish Muslim community urged people not to blame Islam for Wednesday’s attack, which left one dead, amid efforts to counter the rising tide of anti-immigrant abuse directed at Muslims.
“In the end, irrespective of whether he was Syrian or Egyptian, it all came down to him being a Muslim. Islam always gets the brunt of it,” Fazel Ryklief, who works at the Islamic Foundation of Ireland in Dublin, told Irish Times on Friday.
“I want to stop feeling guilty about being a Muslim every time someone with a Muslim name does something like this,” he said, adding that he was not surprised that some media outlets immediately concluded that the alleged attacker was a Syrian.
The Dundalk attack left one man dead and two injured on Wednesday morning, sparking an immediate tide of anti-immigrant abuse directed at Muslims.
Ryklief stressed that the majority of Muslims condemn all violence, and abhor the killing of anyone.
“As soon as the police mention the words ‘terrorist attack’ people go mad. They don’t wait to establish the reasons,” he said.
Dr. Saud Bajwa, a consultant at Galway University Hospital and spokesman for the Galway Islamic Cultural Centre, shared a similar opinion, condemning the “terrorist” rhetoric that has surrounded Muslims in recent years.
“There is no doubt that these days people are quick to jump to conclusions,” he said.
“On our side, we’re always praying sincerely that the latest attack is not a Muslim thing. I still think there is a wider good out there in Ireland, but there are always people who look at me with doubt because I am a Muslim.”
“This fear is of the unknown—when everyone is shouting that these people are dangerous—even the mildest unfamiliarity can create a sense of fear. I love this society I’ve chosen to live in,” Bajwa added.
“But if we don’t block this stereotyping and if decent people don’t get involved and ask people to use their intellect rather than jumping to conclusions, things will get worse,” said the Galway-based consultant.
Muslims warned that the spread of hateful rhetoric was playing against the benefit of the society.
“It was just yesterday that if you crossed the Border and spoke in an Irish accent you’d immediately have your papers checked,” Ali Selim, spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin’s Clonskeagh, said.
“Even today people still talk about the cartoons of Irish people in the British press. I believe this history will stop most people from stereotyping.
The Clonskeagh-based imam added, “Terms like ‘terrorism’ are not healthy for our society. In this case, we are dealing with a man who is mentally unstable. No normal human being would act in this way.”
Shaykh Dr. Umar al-Qadri, imam of the Al-Mustafa Islamic Centre in Blanchardstown, Dublin agreed.
“This marginalization of a community is pretty much how the Irish were treated during the 70s and 80s when every Irish person was treated as a potential terrorist. It’s a terrible experience for anyone affected by it and still haunts Irish people today who faced that physical or verbal violence,” he said.
Al-Qadri expressed sadness that some people, and particularly those on social media, “make assumptions before gardaí even say anything. It’s creating an atmosphere of anger and hatred towards a community that is already victim to these atrocities.”