Wednesday 21 February 2018

Muslim leaders condemn Irish church 'Isil flyers' as deliberate attempt to spread anti-Muslim hatred

Muslim leaders condemn leaflets as deliberate attempt to spread hate

DISGUSTED: Dr Umar Al-Qadri has condemned Islamophobes who planted Isil flyers. Photo: Gerry Mooney
DISGUSTED: Dr Umar Al-Qadri has condemned Islamophobes who planted Isil flyers. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Claire McCormack

Muslim leaders have condemned the circulation of Islamic State leaflets in church newsletters in Co Westmeath as a "deliberate attempt" to spread anti-Muslim hatred.

Two leaflets, claiming to outline "13 doctrines of radical Islam and Isil from the Qur'an" were found by parishioners at St Mary's Church and St Peter and Paul's Church in Athlone.

Parish priests say the situation is "upsetting" for the community still mourning the deaths of local couple Larry and Martina Hayes, who were killed in a terrorist attack on a beach in Tunisia last year.

The first line of the document, believed to be a print out from the internet, reads: "We can rape, marry and divorce prepubescent girls."

Other statements include: "You can enslave for sex and work", "crucify and amputate non-Muslims", "you will kill anyone who leaves Islam" and "you will terrorize non-Muslims".

Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, Imam of the Islamic Educational and Cultural Centre in Dublin's Blanchardstown, said the language used in the flyer is similar to the propaganda spread by Islamophobes.

"I believe this is a deliberate attempt to spread anti-Muslim hatred, stereotype Muslims and to increase support for this kind of fascism," he said.

"Misquoting the Qur'an deliberately and taking verses out of context makes it appear that Islam is a religion of violence and war," he told the Sunday Independent.

Although it is not known who placed the two leaflets inside the church bulletins, Dr Al-Qadri, who attended the funeral of Larry and Martina Hayes, believes it was not an Islamic State sympathiser.

"I don't think they were put together by an Isil supporter. I know there are sympathisers of Isil, however, there is no hatred mindset among the people of Athlone," he said.

He says those who are Isil supporters are very well monitored by the gardai.

Dr Al-Qadri intends to contact both parishes and will organise a meeting with the Christian Faith members in Athlone to address concerns.

Trinity College lecturer Dr Ali Selim, one of the most senior Muslim clerics in Ireland, says it's imperative that the culprit is caught.

"I would see it as an act of prejudice - it was done to create unrest and to target our peaceful coexistence in Ireland," he said.

"If you have a case, then, in the light of day, stand up and present your argument. We live in a democratic country, where people have freedom of speech and expression, but to see people act in such a cowardly way shows nothing but a lack of understanding," he said.

Last week, the daughter of an elderly parishioner, left horrified after finding the flyer inside her usual church bulletin, contacted local newspaper the Westmeath Independent to highlight the incident. After the discoveries, clergy at both churches trawled through remaining newsletters but no found no other suspicious flyers.

Parish priest, Canon Liam Devine, described the situation as "serious" and "frightening. It's frightening in the sense that we had a big funeral here last July and I would hope there is no connection that they are targeting Athlone or anything," he said.

"I would hope people wouldn't be panicked because of it, but I mean we can't be too careful," he said.

He said the threat of terrorism should never be the subject of a prank.

"I would prefer to believe that it might be someone being mischievous. Even if it is, this is not a subject of a joke; it's not funny because of the age that we live in, it's very serious," he said.

Last month, Garda counter-terrorism officers travelled to Tunisia to liaise with authorities investigating the murders of three Irish tourists in a massacre carried out by an Islamic State terrorist.

Husband and wife Larry and Martina Hayes from Athlone, Co Westmeath, and mother-of-two Lorna Carty, from Robinstown, Co Meath, were among 38 holiday-makers shot dead on a beach in the resort of Port El Kantaoui near Sousse on June 26 last year.

Gardai in Athlone have not yet received an official report on the so-called "Isil leaflets", however, authorities are urging those in possession of the flyers to bring them to their local garda station for inspection.

Sunday Independent

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