Ireland: Persecuted Ahmadi Muslims build first Irish mosque in Galway


Adhmadiyya Muslim leader urges imams in Ireland to ‘speak out’ against Islamic State

Imam Ibrahim Noonan at the entrance to the Maryam Mosque on the Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit, Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Imam Ibrahim Noonan at the entrance to the Maryam Mosque on the Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit, Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

When Imam Ibrahim Noonan began celebrating the Qu’ran in a housing estate in Galway, his hope was that the temporary mosque in Wellpark would be replaced by a permanent structure.

Now, four years after foundation stones were laid on a site opposite Ballybrit racecourse, there’s a new minaret on the city skyline – marking the Ahmadiyya Muslim community’s first Irish house of prayer.

“There is none worthy of worship except Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,” reads the Arabic and English script carved into limestone above the oak doors of the Masjid Maryam ( Mosque of Mary).

“You can see the height gives a beauty to it, and there’s a bit of an echo as well,”says Imam Noonan, looking up at the dome which is also inscribed in Arabic: “There is no greater contentment than remembrance of God in the heart.”

Originally from Waterford, Imam Noonan was 23 when he converted to Islam while living in London. He and his family are now among 500 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Ireland, and among almost 200 in Galway city and county – some of whom have been there since the late 1960s.

Founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in 1889, the Ahmadiyya faith has up to 200 million worshippers in 200 countries, mainly in several African states, Pakistan and Indonesia, with up to 30,000 in Britain and 15,000 in north America.

The community believes in non-violence and tolerance of other faiths, separation of religion and state, and “jihad” or “struggle” by the “pen rather than by the sword”.

“Theologically, we agree 99 per cent with orthodox Islam, but 1 per cent separates us,” Imam Noonan says.

“Orthodox Islam believes that no prophet would return after Muhammad, but we also believe that a follower could come when needed, and he is the founder of our community.”

Asylum system

About 60 of the Irish community’s members are caught in the asylum system here, having fled from Pakistan where they are subject to persecution.

Killings and burnings of Ahmadiyya mosques have been rife in Pakistan since General Zia-ul-Haq’s administration banned them from identifying themselves as Muslims in the mid-1980s.

Twenty of those 60 in direct provision are in Galway, including Laiq Naseer, who shares one room in Salthill’s Eglinton Hotel with his wife and three sons – aged 16, 11 and four. Having been refused application for asylum, his case has been before the High Court for five years and he awaits the outcome of a hearing held in July 2013.

“I have cataracts, diabetes, high blood pressure; I suffer from depression and it is very hard on my wife and all my family,” he says. “It is very difficult and it is too dangerous to return home.”

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