The Muslim population in Ireland has expanded substantially in the last several years, with 10 times more Muslims living in the country today than lived in Ireland 20 years ago.
Islam has become the fastest-growing religion in Ireland, with the number of Muslims increasing nearly 70 percent between 2002 and 2006.
The Muslim community is also becoming more diverse.
“This is probably one of the most diverse Muslim populations in Europe,” “The Irish Times” was told by Dr. Oliver Scharbrodt, who is leading a pioneering three-year research project on Islam in Ireland at University College Cork.
“In other European countries you have a particular ethnic group or nationality being dominant because of historical or colonial links, but that is not the case in Ireland.
“One could say that Ireland constitutes a microcosm of the global ummah [community of believers], with all the different nationalities, trends and movements present and visible in a fairly small geographic and communal space.”
The Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland [ICCI], in Clonskeagh, Co. Dublin, an institution which has a long-standing relationship with the Irish government, is connected to the Brussels-based Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe.
The iman at the ICCI is the secretary of the European Council for Fatwa and Researchan, an offshoot of the federation.
“With the [ICCI] hosting the secretariat of this leading body of Islamic jurisprudence, Ireland has become the center of one of the most influential ideological and intellectual trends of the contemporary Muslim world,” says Scharbrodt.
The ICCI has welcomed President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen and his predecessor Bertie Ahern, as well as many ministers.
Many Muslims have said that because of its size and financial resources the ICCI towers above other Muslim organizations as the self-appointed voice of Islam in Ireland, pushing aside diversity.
Scharbrodt adds that the Irish government should engage with the diversity of Muslims in Ireland, particularly as the numbers grow and second-generation Muslims come of age.
“Ideally it should try to relate to and establish links with as many mosque groups and organisations as possible,” he said.
The 2006 census put the number of Muslim living in Ireland under 33,000, but most observers agree the true figure is over 40,000.