|S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 06 DUBLIN 000798
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/27/2014
TAGS: PINR PTER SCUL KTFN AU PINS KPAO BE FI FR
GM, GR, IT, LU, NL, NO, PO, SP, SW, SZ, UK
SUBJECT: IRELAND: ISLAM IN EUROPE (C-DI5-01478)
REF: A. SECSTATE 51923
¶B. 05 DUBLIN 1216
¶C. 05 DUBLIN 1264
DUBLIN 00000798 001.2 OF 006
Classified By: DCM JONATHAN S. BENTON, FOR REASONS 1.4 (B), (D)
¶1. (U) Summary. Embassy Dublin salutes the initiative of Washington analysts (ref A.) to look at the role of Islamic thinkers across Europe. In 2004, we launched a new outreach program to Muslims in Ireland, a group that has grown rapidly in recent years from a population of less than 4,000 according to a 1991 census to a population the GOI estimates to be more than 30,000. To build dialogue with this community, the Ambassador, DCM, POL/ECON Chief, and emboffs have met with Sunni and Shi’a leaders, hosted events, and nominated Muslims for the International Visitors program. In this outreach we have heard three main voices of Islam in Ireland: conservatives with potential radical elements (to include Muslim Brotherhood, led by adherents of Yusuf Al Qaradawi), integrationists, and the pro-U.S. minority Shi’a community. Our comments reflect our work with the community in Dublin, where the majority of Muslims in Ireland live. Sunni Muslims tend to worship primarily at the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland (ICCI). According to a mosque spokesman, approximately 1,000 Muslims from numerous Islamic countries regularly attend Friday services and around 3,000-4,000 Muslims attend special events at the center. Other smaller Sunni Mosques, with attendance likely in the low hundreds, include South Circular Road Mosque (AKA Islamic Foundation of Ireland), and Black Pitts (300-500 regular attenders) and Clonee (100-200) Mosques, the latter two home primarily to Pakistani worshippers. Most of the Shi’a Muslims in Dublin, approximately 250 Iraqi immigrants, worship at the Ahlul Bait, or Milltown Mosque. There are small communities of Muslims in other large cities, such as Cork, Limerick and Galway. End Summary.
¶2. (U) Please see below answers to reftel questions:
¶A. How, and with what success, are groups such as the Dublin-based European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), seeking greater recognition for Islamic law in Europe?
¶3. (C) The Dublin-based ECFR is chaired by an Egyptian born, Qatar-based highly influential cleric and leading member of Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. His ECFR presidency establishes a certain amount of notoriety in Ireland for the ECFR, which is housed at the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland (ICCI), commonly referred to as “the Clonskeagh Mosque.” In conversations with emboffs, key integrationist Muslims and at least one journalist charge that ICCI answers to Al Qaradawi. ECFR’s influence is likely to be significant considering that its members, all prominent clerics, hail from France, UK, Spain, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Bosnia, Switzerland, as well as the Middle East.
The infrequency of the formal meetings complicates our ability to gauge the effectiveness of the ECFR; the ECFR holds two formal meetings annually, one in Ireland, the other to rotate among European cities (though Istanbul hosted the conference in June 2005 and June 2006). ECFR-Dublin has no full-time staff members, but three of ICCI’s officials, including the mosque’s Imam as General Secretary carry out ECFR responsibilities. ECFR-Dublin’s mission statement does not claim to seek greater recognition for Islamic law in Europe; but rather describes its goal as providing spiritual, social and legal guidance to Muslims living here. According to an ECFR staff member, it is not a proselytizing body that counts converts but a body that provides clarity of Islamic law (Shariah) and its application to European Muslims.
¶4. (C) In the book, “Fatwas of European Council for Fatwa and Research”, distributed by ICCI, Al Qaradawi claims that due to economic migration, there are now 50 million European Muslims. The growing number of Muslims in Europe, Al Qaradawi claims, produced the current European Islamic resurgence that requires Islamic organizations such as ECFR to maintain religious connections with groups in the Middle East and to serve as regional centers for instructions and guidance. According to Al Qaradawi, the ECFR’s objective is “to promote a uniform Fatwa (religious edict) in Europe and to prevent controversy and intellectual conflicts regarding the respective issues wherever possible.” He also claims that ECFR is designed to become an approved religious authority for local governments and private establishments. (Comment: ECFR is little more than a paper tiger. Though it aspires to play a larger role regarding Islam in Europe, it has no enforcement ability for its fatwas and does little to implement the decrees it issues. End comment).
¶5. (C) Al Qaradawi also claims in the ECFR Fatwa book that prior to such proper Islamic organizations as ECFR, European Muslims were misguided and acted disgracefully, “similarly to the Jews.”
ICCI-The Largest Islamic Center in Ireland
¶6. (C) ICCI, which is collocated with the ECFR, is the largest mosque in Ireland and its building was financed by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Maktoum Foundation of the UAE. In spite of the impressive size of the mosque, it is not the most significant Maktoum family operation in Ireland. The family also operates a huge and successful horse racing, breeding, and training operation in Ireland, based in Kildare’s Kildangen Stud Farm. Mosque leaders tell us that, although Maktoum funding flows steadily, the family pays little to no attention to the operations of the mosque or the ECFR. According to a mosque spokesman, approximately 1,000 Muslims from numerous Islamic countries regularly attend Friday services and around 3,000-4,000 Muslims attend special events at the center. The ECFR Secretary General and Imam of the center is Egyptian Shaykh Hussein Muhammad Halawa. When journalists want an “Islamic point of view,” or the GOI wants to include a Muslim in a public event, such as the recent presidential inauguration, they tend to go to ICCI first. In March 2005, ICCI sought greater recognition for Islam here by hosting an “Islam in Ireland” conference and invited GOI officials to witness Irish Muslim efforts to integrate. However, the conference devolved into a session on how the GOI and Irish public can best accommodate the needs of the Irish Muslims in terms of healthcare and funeral services, providing prayers rooms in public schools, and making dietary allowances for Muslims students during Ramadan. Nur al-Hoda school is also located at ICCI, and is one of two Muslim schools accredited by the GOI and eligible to receive government funding. Though not affiliated with the mosque, Nur al-Hoda is associated with the mosque by virtue of its locale.
¶B. Which Muslim clerics and intellectuals have the most influence among Muslims in Europe? Do any of them have broad influence extending across ethnic and linguistic groups among Europe’s Muslim populations? Do any of the European-based thinkers have significant influence elsewhere in the Muslim World?
Muslim visitors to Ireland
¶7. (C) One indication of who influences Irish Muslims is who comes here. Visitors in recent months are listed below.
–In December, ICCI hosted a series of talks on integration by moderate Egyptian cleric and Islamic televangelist Amr Khaled, who recently rose to fame in Europe for countering the ideas of Al-Qaradawi in dealing with the West. In addition, since early 2005 ICCI has hosted several programs on various topics such as women’s issues in Islam, multiculturalism, Arabic language instruction, Palestinian solidarity, and Muslim-Christian-Jewish dialogue. Of note was the March 2-5, 2006 visit of Egyptian Shaykh Wajdi Ghunaim who delivered lectures on “the behavior of Muslim youth in a foreign land” and “sickness of living in a foreign land.” Also, on January 29, 2006 ICCI hosted American Shaykh Yusuf Estes, a Muslim convert and former Christian preacher, who spoke on “building bridges between Muslims, Christians and Jews.”
–On March 2, Anjem Choudhry, radical British leader of Al-Muhajiroun, and Ali Saleem, an Egyptian/Irish national and ICCI employee, participated in a public debate on Islam, where Choudhry promoted the Muslim right to self-defense for all Western infractions against Islam since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. He argued, with Saleem’s tacit complicity, that victims of 9/11, Madrid, and 7/7 are collateral damage and justifiable losses in an ongoing struggle to regain a global Islamic state. This was Choudhry’s second visit to Ireland since November, when he appeared at a Trinity College Philosophical Society debate on terrorism. According to press reports then, he claimed in the debate that Ireland was a “legitimate target” for terrorism for its allowing U.S. military planes to refuel at Shannon Airport.
–On April 19, the Irish Institute of European Affairs hosted a seminar on “Islam, Integration and Europe” which included a speech by Professor Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Hassan Al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan, a SWISS national, claimed before a small, mostly Irish audience, that Islam is now a European Religion and that Muslims and Europeans share responsibilities in overcoming current conflicting thoughts. He charged that Muslims should integrate, learn to identify themselves as Europeans and become dutiful citizens. Likewise, he called for European governments to stop Islamicizing the problems of immigration and start focusing on shared values.
–On May 25, the Irish Equality Authority, National University of Ireland-Maynooth and the Royal Irish Academy hosted a “Meeting the Challenge of Islamophobia” conference. British/Indian celebrities Javed Aktar and Shabana Azmi told the audience of around 150 Irish academics and professionals that secularism in India has secured the freedom of religion for millions of Indian Muslims. They also said that the West’s view of Islam is formed by the actions and words of a small minority of extremists and pointed to the fact that most of the world’s Muslims are not Arabs. They told the audience of how Islam has proved its compatibility with democracy in Indonesia, Malaysia and India and emphasized that the terrorism is given root when groups are isolated from pluralistic society, such as in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Taking this notion further, however, Aktar accused the United States of Nazi-like crackdowns on the press and the limitation of free speech, actions which, he charged, also give birth to extremism.
¶C. Washington analysts are interested, in particular, in groups and individuals who promote a clearly pluralist, tolerant form of political Islam in Europe, as well as the activities of groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
¶8. (C) Only in recent years has Ireland witnessed a significant growth in the numbers of Muslim immigrants. For that reason, discussions on pluralism are just beginning to take place. The GOI has established programs such as the hiring of non-Irish police officers and creating the National Consultative Committee for Racism and Integration to help assimilate immigrants. From within the Muslim community, however, only a few voices calling for integration can be heard. The loudest of these voices are Shaheed Satardien, Allama Zille Umar Qadri and Mian Ghulam Bari and his son Mazhar Bari. Both Satardien and Qadri have told emboffs that getting out a positive message on integration is difficult because the conservative Muslims, or as Satardien refers to the leaders at ICCI, the Wahhabis and Muslim Brotherhood, control Islam in Ireland. He alleges that ICCI has the ear of the GOI and blocks efforts to initiate open dialogue within the religious community.
¶9. (C) Saudi-trained Sheikh Dr. Shaheed Satardien is one of the most quoted Muslim voices for pluralism in Ireland. Satardien, a South African refugee and Imam with no mosque, has a talent for seizing the microphone and is often quoted in the media. He promotes a very positive image of Islam, co-organizing, for example, a February 10 peace rally thanking the Irish, British and U.S. press for not publishing the Mohammed cartoons. He also organized an interfaith peace conference on June 10, with Post’s DCM providing the keynote speeh. Satardien does not have an organized following and thus cannot at this time be thought of as a leader of moderate Muslims. Irish government sources describe him as a man who likes the sound of his own voice. He does, however, have the ambition to become a leader and, as noted, a talent for attracting media attention. For these reasons, the embassy works with him.
¶10. (C) Another prominent figure in terms of moderate Islam is Mazhar Bari. Bari, a college professor and local politician for the Progressive Democrats, networks effectively in both Sunni and Shi’a circles as well as with government officials. Bari is the integrationist voice most recognized by the GOI. He and his father, Mian Ghulam Bari are leaders of the Pakistani community here in Ireland. The Baris, who are wealthy and well-established in Ireland, are pious but espouse mainstream Islam and encourage assimilation of Muslims in Ireland. The Black Pitts mosque, which they sponsor, is suspected of being a gathering place for some radical elements within the Pakistani community in Ireland,
¶11. (C) Another influential voice for integration is Dutch-raised Pakistani Sheikh Allama Zille Umar Qadri, who runs the 120-member Clonee Mosque attended primarily by Pakistanis. He was the other organizer of the February peace rally and teaches English and integration to new immigrants. Qadri’s group adheres to the religious doctrine of Minhaj-ul-Quran, a Pakistani organization that preaches Brelvi Islam which is a contextual vice literal interpretation of the Quran. In July 2005, in a seminar that included Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Baha’is, he publicly called for increased Muslim cooperation to counter the threat of Islamic extremism, saying “those people who say we do not need to condemn terror do not know their religion.”
¶12. (C) One of the most pro-democracy and pro-USG policy Islamic voices in Ireland is that of the Shi’a Mosque leader, Irish/Iraqi/Saudi Arabian national Dr. Ali Al Saleh and his approximately 250-member predominantly Iraqi congregation in the Dublin neighborhood known as “Milltown”. Al Saleh and the Irish Shi’as attempt to provide the Irish public with a balanced view of USG efforts in Iraq, but unfortunately, lack the media savvy to effectively communicate the balanced picture of activities in Iraq and are overshadowed in the Islamic community by the majority Sunnis, who have historical and political connections to the GOI. With assistance from Post, however, Dr. Al Saleh’s message is gradually being heard by an Irish audience, such as in a positive Op-Ed ghost-written for him in the Irish Times, the Irish newspaper of record, on the third anniversary of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.
Muslim Brotherhood in Ireland
¶13. (S) In discussions with emboffs, the above-named pluralistic individuals and others have accused Halawa and other leaders at ICCI, and a smaller, more radical mosque, South Circular Road (SCR) Mosque and notably its Imam, Sudanese Yahya Al Hussein, of membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the historical and political connections that ICCI has with the GOI, other prominent Muslims deem that its teaching is influenced by Wahhabism with a close link to the ultraconservative Deobandi school of Islam (espoused by the Taliban). One journalist in town reported that other than in Qatar, the MB has its strongest base in Ireland, and charged that Al Qaradawi “runs Islam in Ireland.” SCR, aka the “Old Mosque” and referred to by local Muslims as the “Tora Bora” Mosque because of the high concentration of Afghan and Bosnian Jihadists who frequent it, has weaker ties to MB. It is viewed as an extremist mosque by SIMO colleagues, but characterized by the GOI as one of the two official Mosques in Ireland (along with ICCI).
¶14. (S) Some diplomatic community Muslims are instructed by their missions not to attend services at ICCI and other moderates have left the mosque’s community due to alleged radical influences at the center. For example, despite Halawa’s public call after the 7/7 London attacks to arrest extremists, ICCI employed as a religious teacher Abderrahmane Katrani, an Afghanistan veteran and Moroccan national wanted by the GOM for the 2003 Casablanca bombings. Also, terrorism financier and U.S. Executive Order 13224 designee Ibrahim Buisir is known to frequent the center.
¶15. (C) In public and with emboffs, Halawa, Saleem and other suspected MB members present a respectable face of Islam, and assert their desire for an end to all violence. In recent months, Saleem has taken on a public relations role of promoting Islam to the Irish, in the form of debates, providing tours of ICCI, and meeting with guests of the center. Though he espouses some of the rhetoric of Choudhry, as mentioned above, he appears mainly to support the revival of the pre-Ottoman “golden years” of the Islamic empire. In the July 2005 edition of its newsletter Spectrum, the National Consultative Committee for Racism and Integration published two of Saleem’s articles on the “Muslim Community in Ireland” and the “Integration of Muslims in Ireland,” both presenting positive images of Muslim integration into Irish society. Though he does not reach out to the embassy proactively, he is accessible to emboffs and is key to engaging with the ICCI leadership. He speaks excellent English.
¶D. What is known about the personalities and leadership styles of key Muslim clerics and intellectuals? What motivates them to take on a leadership role in the Muslim community? What are their interpersonal and organizational skills and deficits? How would one evaluate their capacity for strategic thought and action? What are their key personal and professional relationships?
Muslim Brotherhood Leaders
¶16. (C) As implied before, the individuals associated with ICCI and other conservative Sunni Mosques, Halawa, Saleem, Hussein, and others, appear to maintain their key professional international relationships through the ECFR, or Muslim Brotherhood contacts. Halawa, in particular, as head of the largest Mosque in Ireland is in a unique position as the main official Muslim contact of the GOI. However, his deficit in this role is his lack of English speaking ability. Satardien, Qadri and others charge that Halawa owes his position as Imam to ICCI’s benefactors in Dubai, and serves at the pleasure of Al-Qaradawi. It is doubtful that he, Saleem, or others suspected of MB involvement operate independently of some informal conservative Islamic or MB hierarchy. When queried in a May 23 interview by emboffs about the European role of MB, Halawa and Saleem failed to clarify their position regarding the organization, but distanced themselves and other Muslims from any groups that espoused violence to achieve ends. They also acknowledged that individual European MB members may be combining religion and politics, to the detriment of MB, but again, failed to provide details. When pressed on Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, they demonstrated loyalty to him by claiming that he is a model of moderate Islam and said that disparaging remarks about him were taken out of context.
Al-Saleh-Iraqi Shi’a community
¶17. (C) Al-Saleh is a very intelligent and eloquent (in spoken English) leader of the Shi’a community in Ireland. He appears motivated to lead his community by a genuine desire to promote democracy in the Muslim world. At October’s Iftar, he told emboffs and his Shi’a audience that prior to the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, he did not think that Islam and democracy were compatible. Now he believes “you can’t have Islam without democracy.” He is an effective communicator and capable of high levels of strategic thought and action. He is willing to take a public platform to promote democracy in the Middle East and speak of the importance of Islamic coexistence the West. His deficits are that he represents only a small minority here in Ireland and has little experience dealing with the media or the GOI.
¶18. (C) In a conversation with an emboff, Satardien explained that though normally attired in Western garb, for the February 10 Peace Rally, he wore a turban and robes. He said that though he has no mosque, his credentials as an Imam, and more importantly, his attire as a cleric enabled him to have military-like control (as witnessed by emboff) over the approximately 300 Muslim men protesting the publication of the Mohammed cartoons. Effectively, he steered the crowd from chanting slogans about the cartoon to the focus of the gathering: thanking the Irish, British and American press for not publishing the offending images. Satardien is fluent in English, appears to have high credentials as an Imam, and is well connected to media outlets willing to broadcast his message of pluralism. He also is very active: On June 10 he organized and hosted his second annual peace conference and is publishing a book in English; hosting a radio show; chairing “Interfaith Roundtable,” a group that he founded; and participating in an October debate called, “Jesus or Mohammed: Who is the true exponent of peace?” His deficits are that by associating with all religious groups, to include Christians, Wiccans, Moonies, Quakers, Baha’is, etc., in his own view, he is deemed as fringe by many Muslim groups as well as Christian groups in Ireland. According to him, his motivation for assuming a leadership role in Ireland is to replace what he deems a very radical group (the MB leaders at ICCI and SCR) with his moderate, pluralistic message.
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