EXTREMIST Muslims influenced by al-Qaeda are taking a hold in Ireland and some of these young adults are becoming influential in the country's universities, the Muslim religious leader of a Dublin mosque has warned.
Imam Ali Al-Saleh, who runs the Shia mosque in Dublin's Milltown, said fundamentalist Muslims who sympathise with al-Qaeda were living in Ireland and that the recent arrest of a group of Muslims in Waterford and Limerick – as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to murder a Swedish cartoonist – was proof of this.
Two Muslims living in Ireland have been charged with minor offences relating to the international investigation into the alleged plot to murder cartoonist Lars Vilks, who controversially depicted the prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog.
"I think there is a problem with extremists in Ireland. Ireland is being used as a safe haven. We were not surprised over the arrests in relation to the plot in Sweden," Dr Al-Saleh told the Sunday Tribune. "Many extremist Muslims came to Ireland as asylum seekers. They are raising their children as extremists and these children have now grown into adults. There is now a problem in Ireland with extremists getting involved in university student societies. This is of concern. These youths can be easily brainwashed. There are so many websites dedicated to extremism and so many speeches being made that influence these young people. It is a very hot atmosphere. We are warning people not to get involved."
Dr Al-Saleh added that, as well as extremist Muslims who have been raised in Ireland, many middle-Eastern students are also arriving in Ireland to study.
"Al-Qaeda have used Ireland as a base. I think the most dangerous are the parents who raise their children as fanatical extremists. I have children in primary and high school. They tell me what they say about Osama bin Laden. They tell us their youth praise Osama bin Laden."
"The reaction of extremists can be very harsh. There have been al-Qaeda leaders in Ireland – they have since been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Dr Al-Saleh said it was important to acknowledge Muslim extremism in Ireland but he is aware that some other imams do not agree with his views. "In Ireland we have this problem and we need to tackle it. By acknowledging it, I am defending Islam. To deny it is not accusing Islam, it is accusing extremists."
Islam is now the second biggest faith in Ireland after Christianity with approximately 32,000 Muslims living here. Imam Ali Al-Selim, chairman of the Irish Council of Imams and head of the Sunni mosque in Dublin's Clonskeagh, said he did not believe there was a problem with extremists Muslims in Ireland.
"We are an integrated part of Irish society here. Nothing has happened to show us there are radical Muslims in Ireland. We as Muslims condemn all violence whether it's against Muslims or non-Muslims," he said.