Preachers of hate grooming students
Extremist preachers may be spreading hate in Irish universities and encouraging vulnerable young Muslims to join Islamic State conflicts, a leading Imam has warned.
Although previous concern over the potential radicalisation and recruitment of Irish Muslims has centred on social media interaction, Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, Chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, says physical contact is also a "very real threat".
The Irish Muslim community are now taking practical steps to prevent radicalisation and they are calling on the Government to take immediate action.
According to official Department of Justice figures, up to 30 Irish fighters have left here to fight in Syria and Iraq.
Speaking at a seminar on preventing radicalisation at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Al-Qadri said: "We know already that more than 30 youths from Ireland have travelled abroad to participate in the conflicts but how were they recruited? How were they radicalised?.
"To say that it is solely down to social media is not fair because it does happen through physical contact also. We want to ensure foreign speakers that come here to preach in our universities, colleges, Islamic centres and mosques do not encourage our Muslims to travel abroad and that they will actually discourage them and they will not recruit anyone from Ireland," he said.
Although he stresses that radicalisation is not a major problem in Ireland, he says the fact that at least 30 have already been recruited is a "wake-up" call to the community.
"Things are very good right now but that can change rapidly and it's our responsibility to ensure that we live in a peaceful co-existing society," he said.
"In Ireland we cannot say 100pc that nobody will become extremist, but we can take practical steps to minimise the risk," he said.
Recent suicide bomb attacks in Brussels, Baghdad, Lahore and Istanbul falsely carried out "in the name of Islam," were the final straw for the Irish Muslim community, made up of approximately 65,000 members.
Dr Al-Qadri says the community "cannot stay silent anymore" and that they are committed to minimising the threat of radicalisation from a "grassroots level".
Muslim scholars have formulated an anti-extremism declaration to ensure that all visiting Islamic speakers to Ireland abide by norms of peaceful and respectful discussion and teaching.
It was signed for the first time by visiting Muslim speaker Shaykh Fakhruddin Owaisi, chairman of the Council of Sunni Imams in Cape Town, South Africa at the seminar in TCD's Irish School of Ecumenics.
US ambassador Kevin O'Malley, Belgium ambassador Philippe Ronald, Pakistan ambassador Syed Rizwan, Iran ambassador Javad Kachoueian, and French counsellor Philippe Ray were also in attendance.
"We want to avoid radicalisation in Ireland and prevention is better than cure," said Dr Al-Qadri.
"This declaration states that foreign speakers who come here to engage with our Muslims very clearly and unconditionally condemn and reject all terrorism," he said.
"It is a Muslim initiative to protect the Muslim community. I hope to see the Irish Government respond to this. I don't want you to respond when it is too late," he said.
Muslim scholars are calling on the Government to consider including the declaration as part of the visa structure. They're also calling on all universities, colleges, student organisations and mosques throughout the country to implement the declaration.
"Implementing this initiative is the first step towards closing the door on extremism," he said.