Muslim immigrants find welcome in Catholic Ireland

Muslim immigrants are finding a much more welcoming atmosphere in traditionally Catholic Ireland than in Europe or America, according to an article in The Atlantic magazine.

Muslims make up just 1.1 per cent of the 4.5 million people in Ireland, but their ranks are swelling due to immigration, births and, in some cases, conversion.

The 2011 census recorded 49,204 Muslims, nearly a quarter of them school-aged children, but the number is projected to reach 125,000 by 2030.

The first Muslims in Ireland began arriving in the 1950s, most to study medicine. The stream of students continued for decades and some stayed, forged careers, married, and had children.

“When we talk about wider Irish society, there is not that much preoccupation within public discourse with the Muslim presence in Ireland,” Oliver Scharbrodt, a professor at University College Cork and an expert on Ireland’s Muslim population told The Atlantic.

He suggested this might be because the early immigrants integrated relatively easily.

“The articulation of a religious identity in the public arena is not seen to be that problematic,” Scharbrodt said. “In Ireland, religion and politics have always been connected together.”

In a 2012 European Commission survey on discrimination, 79 per cent of Irish respondents described discrimination based on religion or beliefs as “rare” or “non-existent” in Ireland. Meanwhile, 66 per cent of French respondents described religious discrimination in their country as “widespread”.

“[In France], if you have a beard like this you would never find a job,” said Riadh Mahmoudi, a 35-year-old Algerian immigrant, gesturing to his chin. “My wife, for example, wears the full niqab. If she wears the niqab [in France], she would be in trouble. She would be fined. You don’t see these things happen here.”

Other Muslims said they like the numerous single-sex schools offered by the Catholic-dominated education system, and said that school officials typically accommodate the needs of Muslim students, including dietary restrictions and uniform modifications.


The Atlantic

Image: Muslim Population

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