Sunday 18 February 2018

Irish Muslim groups wants talks with the Government

Leaders want more engagement from Government as Tánaiste's deportation comments criticised

Frances Fitzgerald: says options include deportation Photo: Caroline Quinn
Frances Fitzgerald: says options include deportation Photo: Caroline Quinn
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Muslim leaders in Ireland have demanded the Government does more to engage with the community here and help combat the roots of radicalisation.

Community leaders have expressed concern over Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald's pledge to deport suspected jihadists based on intelligence, even in cases where sufficient evidence does not exist to bring a criminal prosecution.

Shaykh Muhammad Umar Al-Qadri, chief executive of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, said much greater engagement was needed from the Government. The council has centres in Cork, Dublin and Belfast.

Dr Al-Qadri said his organisation was fully in favour of the deportation of anyone who intends to cause conflict or engage in violence in the name of Islam. But he said this should be done in situations where there is concrete evidence and a conviction.

"We do support the idea of deporting those who have been proven to be jihadists by the courts," said Dr Al-Qadri.

"However, we don't think it is a good idea to deport someone just on the basis of suspicion. Suspicion is not proof."

Read more: Deporting jihadists justified on national security grounds - Tánaiste

Dr Al-Qadri also called for the Government to liaise more closely with organisations such as his to help combat extremism and radicalisation.

He said he did not believe there had been enough efforts made in this regard to date.

Dr Al-Qadri said he welcomed a pledge by Ms Fitzgerald to put more resources into countering radicalisation, but said there needed to be a much broader engagement by the Government with the wider Muslim community than there has been to date.

"It is positive. It gives the message that the Government is serious about the threat of radicalisation," he said.

"I think we need awareness. We need de-radicalisation programmes and training programmes.

"We need the Government to sit with the Muslim community and discuss the threat of radicalisation.

"Until now, the Government has only been dealing with the largest mosque, the Clonskeagh mosque. But there are many more stakeholders. The community is not just represented by one particular mosque. They need to involve other members of the Muslim community also.

"Without liaising with the Muslim community, which is very diverse, you can't remove the threat of radicalisation."

Meanwhile, the country's largest mosque, the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh, Dublin, requested a meeting with Ms Fitzgerald to get clarity on her remarks. The centre's spokesman, Dr Ali Selim, said: "We have some concerns regarding recent comments by the minister."

Dr Selim said Ms Fitzgerald had "a very good record of positive and constructive engagement with the Islamic community in Ireland" and was "regarded as a friend".

"As a community we fully support the rule of the law, as we know the minister does, and we look forward to a positive engagement with the minister," he said.

Read more: Ireland 'at moderate risk of lone wolf jihadis'

Defending her proposals at the weekend, Ms Fitzgerald said: "I will not entertain the idea that we should ignore our right to legally deport any person, illegally present on our territory, whom we know to be involved in terrorist activities."

She said authorities will always seek to prosecute people involved in criminality where possible. But she added she would "not ignore any of the legal paths open to me to confront terrorism". These options include deportation, she said.

Although commenting generally, her remarks come just weeks after a suspected Isil facilitator had been deported to Jordan, despite claims that he may face torture there.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has criticised the proposal as being "open to abuse".

Irish Independent

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