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IFI Mosque, the heart of a new multicultural Ireland

'giving people a place to talk to fellow Muslims '

The IFI Mosque on the South Circular Rd-‘Giving people a place to talk to fellow Muslims ‘-Photo by Colin Layde

With the Liberties now home to a growing Muslim community, Colin Layde explores social and religious aspects of their lives, and their experiences with rascism.

The Islamic Foundation of Ireland (IFI) mosque on the South Circular Road acts as a place of worship and a focal point for Muslims in the south city centre.

The IFI was formed in 1959 by a group of Muslim students; the organisation is a registered charity and was responsible for the establishment of Ireland’s first mosque in 1979. The IFI has since gone on to establish mosques in Cork, Waterford and Galway.

The South Circular Road mosque doubles as the IFI’s headquarters, charged with looking after the religious, social and cultural needs of Irish Muslims. The Sunni mosque was established in 1983, when the IFI purchased the building, which was previously a Presbyterian church. Muslims in Dublin 8 had previously worshiped at a house on Haddington Street, but the increased number of worshippers in the south city centre meant they had outgrown the premises.

Mudafr Al Tawash, the manager of the Mosque- Photo by Colin Layde

Mudafr Al Tawash, the manager of the Mosque- Photo by Colin Layde

 

Mudafar Al Tawash is in charge of the day to day running of the mosque. Mudafar was born in Iraq, before joining his brother in Ireland, where he studied agriculture at University College Dublin (UCD). After completing his studies, Mudafar travelled around the world working in the agricultural industry before coming back to Dublin to live.

The IFI mosque acts as much more than a place of worship, functioning as a community centre for Muslims in the south city centre. The complex features a shop which sells halal meats as well as a canteen, offices and a library. In total over 30 nationalities are represented at the mosque, including some Irish converts to the Islamic faith.

“The mosque is not only a place of worship, it’s like a community centre, it gives people a place to come and talk to fellow Muslims,” Mudafr says.

As well as running the mosque, the IFI also runs Muslim primary schools in both Clonskeagh and Cabra. Students at the schools study the same curriculum as Irish national schools, in addition to receiving religious education centred on Islam.

Every Friday, the Islamic equivalent to the Sabbath, 800 Muslims gather to listen to the Imam’s sermon and to pray. The mosque is also central to the Islamic celebration of Ramadan, in addition to being the site of marriages and funerals. Mudafr says that despite occasional instances of racism, the IFI and its worshippers have been greeted warmly by the residents of Dublin 8.

“Racism has happened now and again, but in general the Irish in comparison to other nationalities are very friendly. They are a religious people and respectful towards Islam and other religions”.

The Mosque holds open days twice a year in order to allow members of other faiths and the community at large to explore the Muslim faith and Islamic culture. The open days often coincide with exhibitions of photography and guests are offered a sample of various cuisines. Mudafr believes holding the open days helps give the residents of Dublin 8 a positive perception of the Islamic faith and enables Muslims to integrate more easily. Life in Ireland presents some unique challenges for Irish Muslims wishing to integrate, with many social activities revolving around alcohol which Muslims abstain from.

“A lot of Irish people don’t drink, some people think if you don’t socialise in the pub there are no places to socialise, but you can meet in cafes or restaurants,” says Mudafr.

The growth in the number of Irish Muslims is symptomatic of a more multicultural Ireland. The unprecedented economic growth Ireland enjoyed for much of the last two decades has brought a significant number of migrants to the country in search of a better life. Mudafar believes that emergence of a more multicultural Ireland has been a positive thing for the country.

“It’s a really good thing, it was a really closed society and now it is a very open community,” he adds.

For more information you can visit the Islamic Foundation of Ireland website at www.islaminireland.com

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