World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Islam in Ireland: Exploring Middle Eastern Links of a Muslim Community in Europe (446) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University College Cork (Ireland)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Dr Oliver Scharbrodt

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Islam in Ireland: Exploring Middle Eastern links of a Muslim community in Europe Despite being one of the fastest growing religious communities in Ireland and having experienced a major increase in numbers in the last 20 years, the particular Irish experience of Islam has been significantly understudied in the context of recent academic interest in Islam in Europe. The organisers of this proposed panel have obtained funding from the Irish Research Council of Humanities and Social Science (IRCHSS) to investigate the historical development and current place of the Muslim community in Ireland. Ireland, which has a fairly unique experience of being a European former ‘colonised’ country until the 1920s and has a history fraught with religious and sectarian tensions, provides a distinctive case in the study of Islam and its models in Europe. The participants of the proposed panel will present and discuss some of their preliminary outcomes of field and archival research undertaken since December 2008. Four papers will be presented all pertaining to Muslims in Ireland with special reference to the experience of Middle Eastern communities, which approximately account for a quarter of all Muslims resident in Ireland today, and are one of the communities under investigation by the project.

Chair: Dr. Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Paper presenter: Dr Adil Hussain Khan, University College Cork, Ireland, Insights into the Organisational Structure of the Irish Muslim Community

Paper presenter: Dr Vivian Ibrahim, University College Cork, Ireland, The Dubai Factor: Islamic Fiscal Reforms in Ireland

Paper presenter: Dr Oliver Scharbrodt, University College Cork, Ireland, Moulding the Public Image of Islam in Europe: The Shiis of Ireland as ‘Moderate’ Muslims

The panel proposes to address some key questions during its presentation: What is the history and development of Muslim communities in Ireland? Have Muslim communities been able to forge a role and accommodate themselves, and if so, in what ways? What methodological challenges and problems in the academic research on Islam in Europe does the investigation of Muslims in Ireland reveal? To what extent does the Irish experience of Islam problematise assumptions and research findings of other studies on European Muslim communities?

Dr Adil Hussain Khan will offer some insights into the organizational structure of the Irish Muslim community and reflect on some of the challenges faced by Muslims in establishing themselves as a unified group in Ireland. The growth and development of the Irish Muslim community in recent years has largely been attributed to the influx of immigrants from the Middle East, South Asia, North and South Africa, and Malaysia. In Dublin, this diversity of backgrounds and perspectives has ultimately been conflated into a handful of dissident mosques with limited ideological interpretations of Islam competing for the same sources of Middle Eastern funding. Dr Khan will examine how these challenges have been manifested in terms of mosque formation, ethnic orientations, and organizational structures.

Dr Vivian Ibrahim will discuss Irish fiscal legislation in relation to Muslim communities and Islamic structures in Ireland. Ibrahim will analyse financial legislation drafted to accommodate large business transactions and investment from the Middle East within the framework of Islamic banking. Simultaneously, the government’s failure to add personal Islamic banking provisions to cater for Muslims communities in Ireland will also be highlighted. It will be argued that a two-pronged legislative approach is being followed in Ireland. The omission of provisions such as Islamic mortgages and interest free lending highlights the Irish government’s failure to meet the needs and demands of the Muslim community whilst conversely it is actively promoting fiscal investment from the Middle East.

Principal investigator of the project, Dr Oliver Scharbrodt, will provide a survey of the Shii community in Ireland. Reflecting the ethnic and national diversity of the Muslim community in Ireland in general, the Shii community comprises members from South Asia, Iran and various Arab states around the Persian Gulf who share the same facilities, the Ahlul Bayt Islamic Centre (husainiyya), in South Dublin. The Shiis in Ireland have gained a distinctive public profile as a moderate group within the Muslim community, rejecting in its public announcements and activities politicised and militant readings of Islam and being strongly involved in Christian-Muslim interfaith dialogue. The paper will investigate this public image created by the leadership of the Shii community in Ireland, explore its reasons and origins with particular reference to the current political developments in Iraq and discuss how this public profile affects intra-communal dynamics both among Shiis and in their relationship with the wider Muslim community in Ireland.