‘Galway was a friendly, spiritual, city, so I decided to remain here’

Source: Galway Advertiser

BY CHARLIE MCBRIDE

In 2014, Galway saw the opening of its first mosque – the Mosque of Mary on the Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit. It was erected by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community which is headed by Imam Ibrahim Noonan, a man with strong faith and a fascinating life story as I discovered when meeting him for an afternoon chat in the House Hotel.

As his surname suggests, Ibrahim is Irish. He was born Michael Noonan in Waterford in 1965. His mother’s family came from Wales and his relations on that side included horse breeders, eminent musicians ,and painters. His paternal relations came from Tipperary and Cork and produced more horse breeders, 1916 veterans, and ASll-Ireland winning footballers.

“My dad was from Cork and a builder and my mum was a graphic designer and artist,” Ibrahim tells me. “There were things that influenced me from both sides of the family. On my dad’s side they were hardcore Republican and my mum’s side were soft, upper-middle class, and rational, and I have both those strands infused in me.”

Another strand that infused in him was the staunch Catholicism found on both sides of his family. “I have been religious from a young age,” he admits. “I was always attracted to it and as a teenager I considered entering the priesthood. I used to question a lot of things. When I was doing my confirmation I asked the Bishop to explain the Trinity and all I got was an affectionate tap on the cheek which clearly meant ‘Don’t ask so many questions’. In college I studied theology and through that other doors opened to me.”

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