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Ali Selim: Stereotyping all Muslims simply a form of oppression

IRELAND has rapidly become a multicultural and multiracial society. This upheaval gave a platform to a diversity of religions and ethics of various communities residing here.

Nonetheless, every country has its own distinct characteristics and hence, here cannot be there and there cannot be here.

The arrival of Muslims to modern Ireland can be traced back to the early 1950s. The first to arrive were students from South Africa followed by students from India, Malaysia and the Gulf states.

During the Celtic Tiger years, professionals were encouraged to move to Ireland.

Within the last few decades, the Muslim community has become the fastest-growing religious minority in the country, making a considerable contribution in social, economic, ecumenical and inter-religion dialogue. With regard to inter-faith dialogue, Muslims have chairs in the Three Faiths Forum and are involved in the Government's project of dialogue.

They co-operate with Irish churches on commonalities and when they disagree, then it is with reciprocal respect.

This positive Muslim contribution to Irish society has been welcomed at various levels and has been manifested many times.

The resurgence of intolerance and discrimination against Muslims after September 11, coupled with related racist tendencies challenging the exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms of Muslims in some western countries, had no serious impact on Muslims living in Ireland.

When Irish Muslims faced a critical juncture around the time of 9/11, the Irish people made a difference. They expressed their solidarity with Muslims here.

Some visited Muslim organisations and handed over letters of solidarity and others presented flowers. They all passed one message: "This is not you. We are with you."

It is said that a friend in need is a friend indeed. From our side, we were the first people in Ireland to condemn the 9/11 attacks, and, likewise, we condemn all atrocities and acts of terrorism – regardless of the faith or race of the perpetrators and the victims.

By and large, the Muslim existence here has been viable and proved to be successful since there are huge amounts of historical and traditional commonalities between the Muslim immigrants and the native Irish.

For instance, most of the Muslim immigrants in Ireland come from countries that, just like Ireland, suffered long periods of occupation. The strong traditional concept of family is one of the major common grounds. The Irish people by nature are prepared for pluralism.

At this point, it should be stated that Muslims should combat the shocking behaviour executed in their name. And non-Muslims, in turn, should always remember that extremism is not the exclusive practice of a certain group. Stereotyping is a form of oppression that results in suppression that leads to explosion.

In some parts of the world, acts of violence against innocent people, justified by their perpetrators on false religious basis, have created an unhealthy atmosphere that allowed Islamophobia to flourish.

To stigmatise every Muslim for a crime perpetrated by a Muslim is just like stigmatising every Christian for a crime perpetrated by a Christian. It is not fair and it is absurd, because by doing that one is increasing the number of his enemy and executing oppressive procedures.

In light of the above situation, the urgency for a revolution of trust based on two solid foundations emerges: firm belief in one's convictions and appreciation of one's heritage.

It, then, makes it clear that compromising is pointless. Colouring the whole country with one colour is really boring. Diversity, based on mutual respect, is enriching.

Dr Ali Selim is a senior member of staff at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland

Irish Independent