All Muslims have duty to inform gardai of any suspected potential terrorist threat here - IMAM of Ireland's biggest mosque
Published 07/04/2016 | 18:53
The country's leading Islamic cleric said all Muslims have a duty to inform gardai if they suspect any potential terrorist threat here.
His comments come as armed gardai continue to patrol Dublin Airport amid fears of a terror attack from jihadi militants and heightened tensions in Europe following last month's attacks in Brussels.
Sheikh Hussein Halawa, the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, said he was "deeply hurt" by the Brussels bombings and there could never be "any justification" for a terror attack in this country.
He said that in Ireland or elsewhere "there was no way of recognising someone by their appearance" as a supporter of the so-called Islamic State (IS).
"We don't know if there are any affiliates or supporters or members of IS in this country, but we hope there are none," said Dr Halawa (61).
"There is no way of knowing who is who, but as far as we know there are none. There are none that attend our mosque."
However, he added that it was incumbent on members of society and the Muslim community in Ireland to report any suspicious activity.
"I take this opportunity to call upon the police and the security forces and the relevant authorities to stay vigilant," he said.
"I also call on society and the Muslim community to cooperate with the authorities if they notice any terrorist or suspicious activities.
"Thankfully, Muslims in Ireland consider themselves an integral part of society.
"They do not face systematic discrimination and are loyal to Ireland."
As the Imam of Ireland's biggest mosque, he expressed his utter rejection of violence and terrorism.
"We unequivocally condemn all acts of terror and killing of innocent people, regardless of their religion, their colour or their language wherever they are and we always condemn such acts as crimes against humanity," he said.
Victims of terrorism "are all human beings and our religion teaches all human life is sacred".
"What happened in Belgium was a crime against humanity," he said.
He added that, even before the murders of staff at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris last year, he had condemned previous attacks on staff of the magazine by individuals angry about their depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.
He said acts of violence by members of any religion should always be reported to the authorities.
"Terrorism does not have a religion and it should be condemned and tackled wherever it happens," he said.
He added that he hoped the world will find a radical solution to the problems of terrorism.
A first step would be to help justice to prevail and to stop the rule of tyrants. Dictatorships can pressure people into radical reactions, he said.
Sheikh Halawa said he had a very happy childhood growing up in Cairo.
He and his wife Amina moved to Ireland with their six children when he was appointed Imam 21 years ago.
Their youngest son is Dublin-born Ibrahim Halawa, who was 17 when he was arrested in Egypt. He was taking refuge in a mosque in Cairo along with his sisters after violence erupted following street protests almost four years ago.
"I cannot sleep at night when I think of him in prison and I don't know what will happen to him," said Sheikh Halawa.
Ibrahim was born and raised in Dublin and was very popular with his classmates. It was normal for the family to visit relatives in Egypt on a regular basis.
The Imam told the Herald of his anguish about Ibrahim's continued detention.
Ibrahim was on holiday in Egypt in 2013 when street protests erupted after democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, was deposed in a military takeover.
Ibrahim and three of his sisters were at a protest when violence broke out. They took refuge in a mosque and were later arrested.
His sisters were released after several months, but Ibrahim is among almost 500 people who remain in prison jointly charged with violence.
Amnesty International considers Ibrahim a prisoner of conscience who was peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.
"How can I sleep at night when I think of my youngest son in prison in the hands of people who show no mercy. He has been denied food and medicine requirements," he said.
"Ibrahim was always a very clever, helpful and sociable young boy who was loved by his teachers and classmates.
"He was our youngest child, and growing up he was ador-able and cute. He told me once that when all his brothers and sisters move away that he would always stay with me."