Last Friday, I was finally able to attend Jumu’ah (Friday) prayers at a masjid (mosque) in nearby Clonskeagh. Jumu’ah is a congregational service that takes place once a week on Friday afternoons, bringing together the Muslim community and offering an opportunity for shared worship. Because of my busy schedule last term, I was unable to make it out to Clonskeagh for Jumu’ah, and I had really missed the sense of community and spiritual refreshment that comes from being part of a congregation.
The masjid in Clonskeagh is beautiful and spacious, and there are plans underway to build a new and much larger masjid in Dublin, which will be the largest in Ireland and one of the largest in Europe. Interestingly, there has been very little controversy over the construction of this new masjid, which, in addition to the main prayer hall, includes a cultural center, bookshop, library, mortuary, restaurant, primary and secondary schools, and an impressive gym. Considering the uproar that takes place in other European countries over the construction of any space for Muslims (just think of the minaret ban in Switzerland), this suggests that the Muslim community here in Dublin is fairly well integrated and accepted by its non-Muslim neighbors.
Oliver Scarbrochdt, a professor at University College Cork, recently completed the first major research study on Muslims in Ireland, which can be found here for any who are interested. He suggests that Ireland’s own tumultuous history with religion has sensitized the nation to the challenges that come with being a religious minority and has led to the good relations that exist between Muslim leaders and the Irish state. For example, there exist Muslim national schools that are recognized by the Department of Education, meaning that they receive the same funding as other national and are held to the same academic standards. Moreover, Muslims organizations are recognized by the state as charitable organizations, allowing them to avoid some of the legal issues that have come up in Germany and the UK.
Personally, I haven’t felt that Dublin is very different from DC in terms of my day-to-day interactions with non-Muslims. There have been a few incidents when I was out in Dublin and someone walking by offered some rude or racist remarks, but I have never felt targeted in the way many Muslim women do in perhaps France or the UK. Having spoken with other Muslim students at Trinity about these topics in general, it seems that the most isolating element is not any kind of racism or Islamophobia, but rather the drinking culture that exists here. Since practicing Muslims don’t consume alcohol, it can be difficult to form friendships with Irish peers and colleagues that go beyond the classroom or the office when they can’t be continued in the pub.
At the end of the day, though, I feel incredibly grateful to have found such a welcoming community and masjid, and I plan to return to Clonskeagh regularly over the coming weeks. Even though it was my first time attending and I only knew a few people, with my forehead pressed to the ground, shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, I finally felt really at home in Dublin.