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Unfortunately it’s often necessary to establish some credentials before contributing to this debate. Ok, here goes: I’m a 59 year-old Irish socialist who is thoroughly enjoying the arrival of large numbers of immigrants here. They contribute to an established process of opening up what was a relatively closed society.


If all cultures, religions, races etc. had progressive or at least benign values and practices, it would be grand. They don’t and when they don’t, good people (Yes, “good”!) are obliged to challenge and to argue.


I could waffle on here about relativism and different notions of equality but let’s be clear: what’s really exercising me about Islam in Ireland is that I don’t want to have to go over old ground. A degree of gender equality is still quite new here and, for example, I don’t want a return to little Irish citizens covering their heads because of bizarre views about modesty or to see again places of worship where women are separated from men. Tolerance is much improved here and, for example, I don’t want again to have to get stroppy in defence of gay friends. Blasphemy is no longer a censoring power here and God has told me that She has a sense of humour and wants me to make fun of priests and prophets.


In short, the public face of Islam looks very like 1950s Irish Catholicism. Most Catholics no longer hold such views and I’m sure most Muslims no longer hold such views either. However, there are people who would like a return to what was essentially an oppressive society. They can expect to be opposed by disrespectful jokes and arguments.



  1. All of this is of course true. However a large impetus in the movement for Irish independence was religious tolerence. We now have to extend that tolerence to Islam if we are to be consistent. They have to be entitled to live out their religious beliefs as they see fit as long as they don’t frighten the horses in the street. We can’t be selectiveley tolerant of minorities. We either are or we are not. What we should expect from minorities is reciprocal tolerence. What is sauce for the goose has to be sauce for the gander. So for example if a Moslem young woman wants to wear a hijab to school why shouldn’t she? After all we don’t ban Christian young people wearing crosses and if they are vegitarians we make allowances for them. Just as long as they don’t expect others to wear the hijab too and they should understand that wearing a hijab does not engender any more respect from Irish young men than not wearing one.

  2. While it would be wrong to select any person or group and adopt an intolerant approach to them, it would be wrong too to be tolerant of all positions and values.

    A person cannot be permitted to hurt and oppress on the grounds that the behaviour is part of a religion. In other words, it is very important that we do not tolerate bad behaviour whether the perpetrator claims a religious motivation or not.

    I doubt that anyone in Ireland would permit female genital mutilation just because someone claimed it was part of his or her religion or culture. OK, that inserted the thin end of the wedge. Now lets get hammering on less extreme barbarism. Should a parent be allowed to deny a child a possibly life-saving medical intervention on religious grounds? In a country, which no longer allows the docking of dogs’ tails, should baby boys be subjected to the pain of circumcision where there is no medical necessity but someone is claiming a religious or cultural justification? Should we revert to segregation of men and women at prayer? Should we allow little Irish girls to be veiled again so that they will learn their place? Should we permit lessons in inequality in any Irish school?

    A veil is not the same as wearing a cross. Men are as likely to wear a cross as women. It is often worn as ornamentation. Where it is religious, it is a small statement of basic faith rather than a complex statement on equality and the sexual natures of both men and women. Of all people we should know this. We dumped veils and we know exactly what they symbolise and teach. Irish kids were subjected to this nonsense before. Insofar as possible, let’s ensure that no Irish child goes around veiled.

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  1. By Bookmarks about Ireland on 31 Dec 2008 at 8:15 pm

    […] – bookmarked by 6 members originally found by gideonro on 2008-12-03 Islam in Ireland: Echoes of 1950s Catholicism – […]

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