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Croke Park paying host to Eid prayers sends 'message of unity, humanity'

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Home ground: Two hundred worshippers spread out their prayer mats on the pitch at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Home ground: Two hundred worshippers spread out their prayer mats on the pitch at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Home ground: Two hundred worshippers spread out their prayer mats on the pitch at Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A Muslim leader has described the holding of traditional Eid prayers at Croke Park as a powerful symbol of religious unity at a time of considerable "challenges".

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, paid tribute to Ireland's tradition of inclusivity and said of yesterday's event in GAA headquarters: "This pandemic has brought with it some blessings. If not for this pandemic we probably would not have been here."

Two hundred worshippers wearing face masks and surrounded by empty terraces rolled out their prayer mats on a manicured pitch usually reserved for Gaelic games.

Dr Al-Qadri delivered part of his speech in Irish and paid tribute to Ireland's tradition of "céad míle fáilte". He said: "If it was not for this pandemic our communities would not have been united. We understand as humans we are in this together and we are having the same ­challenges."

Croke Park was made available by the GAA to facilitate social distancing on an Islamic religious holiday. Leaders of Dublin's Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths attended, as well as a senior representative of the Irish Government. Dr Al-­Qadri said: "We are all showing together a message of peace, a message of unity, a message of humanity."

He added that many people were putting their lives at risk in working in the health service, and paid tribute to Dr Syed Waqqar Ali, who died last month.

After a month of fasting for Ramadan, Eid is normally a time for Muslims to meet, pray and celebrate.

Dr Al-Qadri said the ceremony had sent out a strong message that Ireland is a country of 'céad míle fáilte' - a hundred thousand welcomes.

"No matter your differences, no matter how different you are, once you come and live here and become part of the society, this island of Ireland has this unique ability to adopt you in a way that you become part of society," he said.

He referred to St Patrick, the Welsh missionary who spread Christianity and has become synonymous with Irishness.

Dr Diarmuid Martin, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, said: "Today marks a new chapter in the history of Croke Park. Today our celebration is a gesture of recognising publicly the place of the Muslim community as an integral part of the family of the Irish and to recognise the contribution of your Muslim community to the Ireland of today and to the Ireland of tomorrow."

Irish Independent