Wednesday 19 June 2019

An outpouring of support... and questions raised

Worship: the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin
Worship: the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin
John Meagher

John Meagher

There are more than 63,000 Muslims in Ireland at present - and, within that community, the Halawa family are among the best known. Ibrahim's father Hussein Halawa is the Imam - the spiritual leader - of the country's largest mosque, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland. The sprawling complex is situated on a large site in the south Dublin suburb of Clonskeagh and it attracts hundreds of devout worshippers every day.

When Ibrahim was languishing in an Egyptian prison, there was an outpouring of support for him in this country, but there were also questions about his father and his alleged connection to the extremist group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Imam Hussein has repeatedly denied that he or any member of his family is a member of this controversial organisation. "I would not accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of being bad people, but I am not a member of them," he said last year. "They have even accused my son Ibrahim and my daughters and all my family of being members of the Brotherhood, but when it was investigated, it was realised none of us were members. My son is freed."

Ibrahim has been keen to distance himself from any suggestion that he supports the Muslim Brotherhood. Last year, when appearing on the The Late Late Show, he was unequivocal: "Of course I'm not with the Muslim Brotherhood," he said. "I don't support the Muslim Brotherhood, I don't support their ideology.

"As a 17-year-old [the age he was when first incarcerated in Egypt] you don't even know what a Muslim Brotherhood is. You don't know what an organisation is basically other than a human rights organisation."

Meanwhile, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland has had its fair share of controversy. The first alleged involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood with the mosque arose from a WikiLeaks release of a secret cable from the American embassy. Halawa denied the claim.

And there was considerable disquiet when the Clonskeagh mosque hosted the controversial Islamic scholar, Aid al-Qarni. Among his controversial pronouncement was that the jihad against American forces in Iraq was "a source of pride" and that "throats must be slit and skulls shattered". Al-Qarni is on the US 'do not fly list' and was barred from entering the country in 2012 and 2015.

At the time, Halawa failed to give an answer for why his mosque would associate with al-Qarni. However, he has consistently insisted that he sympathised with anyone that has suffered injustice. The Imam has also pointed out that he would not hesitate in reporting any person or group he believed were plotting terror activities.


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