Chairperson of the Kerry Islamic Outreach Society, Dr. Rizwan Khan, has spoken out about the Irish attitude toward Islam following the actions of an anti-Mosque group in Tralee, Co. Kerry last week.
In early July, the Irish branch of PEGIDA (“Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West,”established in Germany in 2014) handed out anti-Islam flyers in Tralee town center protesting the development of a new mosque in the Killerisk area of Tralee.
Dr. Khan has since spoken to Tralee Today about the protests and the online petition established by the anti-Islam group.
“Even though it was about something anti-Islamic, we were happy with the response,” he told them. “We have to see what is happening here in Tralee and what was important was that most of the people from the town were supportive.”
“Those people [making negative comments] are not getting their knowledge of Islam from first hand experience and so makes them stereotype. We believe that Muslims have to take some responsibility, so that’s why we do an information stall twice a month in The Square, where people can talk to us about any clarification,” he continued.
“Many people have approached us to talk about Islam, they ask us questions about ISIS, Boko Haram and many acts of terrorism and we give them a very straightforward answer; that those groups do not belong to Muslims at all.”
The proposed development was lodged with Kerry County Council last April, on behalf of Kerry Islamic Cultural Centre, which wishes to move from their current mosque and establish a new one on a 2.24 acre site in a business park at Killerisk.
Last week, the decision on whether to grant planning permission was delayed over the question of whether a call to prayer would be used once the mosque was in use. The current proposal includes a 75 foot tall minaret attached to the building from which calls to prayer are usually sounded.
“The call to prayer has been an issue raised, but nobody has said because there is a minaret the call to prayer is going to happen,” Dr. Khan told Tralee Today.
“There is not a chance it will happen because the neighbors’ rights are our utmost priority in Islam. The mosque is moving [from the entrance to Fortfield estate on the Killerisk road] only for one reason: because it is in housing estate. Where it is moving to, is an industrial estate.”
A member of the Irish branch of PEGIDA, which has filed no official complaint with the county council according to the Irish Times, outlined their anti-Islamic sentiment on Radio Kerry last week, as well as the group’s intention to establish a new Irish political party: “The Celtic People’s Party of Ireland.”
“Islam is taking over, all over the world,” he told the radio station. “When they become the dominant religion [in an area] they impose their own laws on people. This has happened in France where there are Muslim-only areas and this has happened in England as well where Sharia law is enforced.”
One of the primary concerns of “The Celtic People’s Party of Ireland” appears to be the influx of people into Ireland in recent years.
Their website states that “at the current rate of influx, we Celtic people will be in a minority in our own homeland by the year 2050. This is nothing less than deliberate population displacement – a crime against humanity according to the UN Genocide Convention.”
The group hold these views despite the fact that the Irish government believes that 2017 will be the first year since 2009 that more people will move into Ireland than leave. By 2017 thousands of Irish people will have moved to various other countries around the world in the same manner as those currently moving to our shores.
Tralee Today reports that, according to the 2011 census figures, Kerry has the fourth largest number of Muslim residents in Ireland with 833 Muslims living in Tralee town itself and over 1,500 living throughout the county.
It is unknown how many members the Irish branch of PEGIDA has. When questioned by Radio Kerry, the PEGIDA member declined to give an exact figure saying, “We have a quite a large membership and we want to keep it secret for now before we get bigger.”
Once registered as a political party, “The Celtic People’s Party of Ireland” – described on their website as a political organization committed to promoting and preserving our Celtic culture and people – plans to run in local and general elections. Their main party policies are outlined as: the abolition of water charges, road tolls, property tax; the reintroduction of the Irish pound (alongside the Euro); a ban on pornography and a ban on the promotion of homosexuality. Despite this, their website also states: “We believe in equal rights for all the Peoples of mankind.”
This is the second time permission has been sought for the relocation of the mosque in Tralee. A previous submission was refused last year over traffic concerns around the industrial site, which is bound by houses and just a short distance from Kerry General Hospital, the Manor shopping center and Kerry County Council. This current submission includes a full traffic study on the traffic in the area and Islamic prayer times.
Dr. Khan also discussed whether the same kind of extremism as has been seen in England could evolve in Ireland. He believes that Muslims in Ireland are doing a better job of integrating into Irish society, however, especially as they send their children to be educated in Irish schools.
“Here in Tralee, we are proud to send our children to various Catholic schools,” he says. “Most Muslim parents in Tralee send their daughters to the Presentation school preferably, so where is the non-integration there? Where is the isolation there?”
“Irish Muslims want to be a part of wider Irish society. We are a minority and we must accept that, so we have to work with the majority. If we isolate ourselves it is good for no one. In fact, it is worse for our community.”