We ask a group about their experiences of racism, acceptance and Irishness
They are an upcoming generation of Irish Muslims – probably the first to have grown up in Ireland in significant numbers.
After several members of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies attended a seminar in Dublin last October on Muslims in the media, we invited a number of the contributors into The Irish Times to tell us what it’s like to be young and Muslim in Ireland today. All are Sunni Muslims and went to school in Dublin or Meath, and are all now in third-level education.
Although they worry about their future, many intend to stay in Ireland and contribute to social, community and business life in the country. This, they say, is a new phenomenon among Irish Muslims.
Marwan Akari, the 21-year-old chairman of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, is in his final year of structural engineering at University College Dublin. His parents were refugees from Libya. Akari was born inJordan and came to Ireland when he was two. He went to several primary schools, including the Muslim National School from second class. His secondary school was St Benildus College, in Kilmacud in Dublin.
Hannah Abushaban is a 17-year-old student of economics, politics and law at Dublin City University. Her parents come from Palestine; she was born in England and came to Ireland at the age of three. She went to North Dublin Muslim National School, in Cabra, then an Educate Together school in Blanchardstown. Her secondary school was Coláiste Pobail Setanta, on the Dublin-Meath border in Clonee.
Aisha Siwar is 18 and studying physics with biomedical sciences at Dublin City University. Her mother is Irish, her father Moroccan. She was born in Ireland. Aisha’s primary education was in the Muslim national school,Navan Road, Dublin, Ladyswell in Mulhuddart, Educate Together in Blanchardstown and Kildalkey school in Co Meath.
Houssam Belfedhel is a 19-year-old student at the National College of Ireland. His parents are from Algeria; he has been in Ireland since he was born. He went to the Muslim National School, in Clonskeagh in Dublin, then to De La Salle College in Churchtown in Dublin, for his secondary education.
Schooldays: “I didn’t wear the hijab then but they still knew us as ‘the Muslim girls’ ”
Houssam: In primary school I didn’t face any issues, because it was full of Muslims.
Marwan: I had no problem getting into [St Benildus], but my younger brothers were not accepted even though I had two older brothers at the school. Other people had higher preference. So one is in school in Bray and the other one is in Rathmines.
Yara: Me and my sister and another girl were the only Muslims in the school. I didn’t wear the hijab then [since going to college she does], but they still knew us as “the Muslim girls”.
Aisha: My mum went to the school’s board of management and said I would be wearing the hijab. The school was really nervous; I was not just the first hijabi but generally the first person considered foreign going to the school, but my experience was generally positive. When you sat down and explained they just saw me the same as any other student. I think it was the parents who were afraid more than anybody else.
My mother is a revert – born Catholic but became Muslim a few years after she met my dad – so she remembers the struggles of when she put on the hijab.