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Professor Oliver Scharbrodt

Muslims in Ireland: Past and Present

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Muslims in Ireland: Past and Present

Since 9/11, interest in Muslims in Europe has increased significantly. There has been much public debate and academic research on Muslims living in larger Western European countries like Britain, France or Germany, but little is known of Muslims in Ireland. Based on the book of the same title, the paper provides a complete overview of this unexplored Muslim presence, from the arrival of the first Muslim resident in Cork in 1784 up to mass immigration to the Republic of Ireland during the “Celtic Tiger” period from the mid-1990s onwards. Muslim immigration and settlement in Ireland is very recent, and poses new challenges to a society that has perceived itself as religiously and culturally homogenous. Ireland is also one of the least secular societies in Europe, providing a different context for Muslims seeking recognition by state and society. This book, on which the paper is based, makes an important contribution to understanding the diversity of Muslim presences across Europe.

Only recently, academic research has taken interest in Muslims in Ireland. Set in the geographical margins of Europe, traditional perspectives on Irish religious history have been bi-sectarian, focussing on the history of sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland and dominance of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland. Having been one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, Ireland transformed from a country of emigration to a country of immigration during the so-called Celtic Tiger years (1995-2008), the years of the country’s massive economic development. Ireland became popular as a destination for immigrants filling the growing labour shortage or seeking refuge and asylum. As a result of these new global waves of immigration, the country has experienced a new degree of cultural and religious diversity. The growing number of Muslims in Ireland is part of this new diversity of Irish society.

The Muslim population in Ireland has grown significantly in the last 20 years, from around 4,000 in the early 1990s to current estimates of 65,000. The Muslim population is extremely diverse without any particular ethnic or national group being dominant. Muslim immigration and settlement to the Republic of Ireland is also different to Muslim immigration to the other Western European countries. The first communal activities and Muslim organisations in Ireland were established by South African Muslim students who moved to Ireland for further education, mostly in medicine. These students were from extremely wealthy and well-educated backgrounds. Many of them stayed in Ireland and became part of Ireland’s middle- and upper-class as educated professionals and, hence, quite well integrated in socio-economic terms. With the rapid increase of the Muslim population in the last 20 years, its socio-economic profile also changed from a predominantly middle-class community to a population of educated professionals, students, labourers, refugees and asylum-seekers.

Professor Oliver Scharbrodt

 


14:36 - 28/02/2016    /    number : 71308    /    Show Count : 235



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