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Saturday 30 August 2014

US closely monitors Ireland's 40,000 Muslim community

Shane Phelan and Tom Brady

Published 06/06/2011 | 10:21

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The Islamic Cultural Office of Ireland Clonskeagh, Dublin.

THE United States government closely monitors the country's main mosques amid American concern over alleged Islamic 'extremists' operating in Ireland, leaked embassy cables reveal.

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The cables show how keeping tabs on Ireland's 40,000-strong Muslim community is a major priority for US diplomats posted here - with detailed dossiers frequently being compiled and sent to Washington.



These dossiers contained information on suspected extremists and 'radical' Irish Muslims.



They also providing extraordinarily detailed accounts on the leadership and membership of Dublin's four main mosques.



It is also clear from the cables that US officials feared young Muslims could become alienated from mainstream Irish society.



One former American ambassador, Thomas Foley, also secretly told Washington that the government here was being complacent in its efforts to pursue alleged terrorists.



The dossiers came to light in the Ireland Cables - a tranche of over 1,900 US embassy cables exclusively obtained by the Irish Independent from the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks. This agreement involved no financial transaction or any monetary obligations on either side.



Some of the cables contained highly sensitive claims about the country's largest mosque, which is run by the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) in Clonskeagh, Dublin.



These claims included that:



*Members of the ICCI mosque celebrated the kidnapping of Irish aid worker Margaret Hassan;



*Children at a school linked to the same mosque mourned the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qa'ida in Iraq;



*Some Irish Muslims felt the ICCI did not take a sufficiently strong stance against global extremist violence.



It is unclear from the cables how fully the US embassy investigated the claims relating to the ICCI before forwarding the information to Washington.



The Irish Independent made the ICCI's leadership aware of these claims, and several others contained in the cables, a week ago.



However, they declined to comment or answer questions submitted by this newspaper ahead of publication.



The cables indicate how in more recent years, the US has become slightly less worried than it was in the past about the potential for an Islamic terrorist attack being launched from Ireland.



In a 'confidential' August 2009 cable, US Ambassador Dan Rooney told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton he believed “overall the Muslim community in Ireland is content and moderate”.



Nevertheless, the same dispatch contained some serious claims about the ICCI, whose members are predominantly drawn from the Sunni branch of Islam.



The cable quoted Siraj Zaidi, an interpreter at the office of the Minister for Integration, who was asked by US embassy officials for his thoughts on the ICCI.



The cable said that in his opinion, the ICCI leadership was detached from its own community and often taken by surprise when problems arose - such as the alleged celebration of Mrs Hassan's abduction by some of its members.



According to the cable, he said the ICCI leadership “attempted to disassociate itself from the issue”.



Mrs Hassan, a Dublin-born aid worker, worked as the head of Iraqi operations for humanitarian relief organisation Care International. She was kidnapped in Baghdad in October 2004.



Her abduction enraged many Iraqis, who protested for her release. However, her captors shot her dead weeks later and her body has never been found.

- READ THE FULL STORY IN TODAY’S IRISH INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPER

More WikiLeaks revelations in Irish Independent:

- US ambassador secretly accused government of “complacency” in pursing alleged terrorists;

- Deep divisions between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims in Ireland

- Muslim community thought former integration minister Conor Lenihan was “ineffective”.

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