The “alarmist” media coverage in relation to the Irish link to the London terror attack last Saturday “bears no relation” to the jihadi threat level to Ireland, according to a terrorism expert.
James Fitzgerald, a lecturer in terrorism at DCU, said the “ratcheting up” of suspicions, in the absence of evidence of a threat, is “irresponsible and damaging”.
He said, contrary to media speculation of gardaí being “wholly unprepared”, gardaí have been proactive in the cases that have come to light in recent years.
“Alarmist media coverage over the fact that one of the London attackers lived in Ireland is not helping,” he said.
“It bears no relation to the level of threat posed to this country by Jihadist terrorism.”
He said the obsession with making Ireland a direct part of this conversation and ratcheting up sweeping narratives of suspicion in the absence of any evidence of threat is irresponsible and damaging in the long term.
“The media narrative has become saturated by claims that Ireland is woefully unprepared, that the gardaí are inept and that it’s only a matter of time before an attack happens here.”
He said that if you look at the evidence, there has not been a jihadist terror attack in Ireland, almost 16 years on from 9/11.
“Any cases that have come to light are mostly relating to individuals providing financial support to terrorist organisations,” he said.
“They are indicative of how the gardaí have been proactive and that our legal system is well capable of seeing such cases through the courts.”
He said Irish media should provide a more balanced and nuanced view of the current situation.
“The current coverage only serves to enhance popular suspicion and demonisation of Muslims, while eroding our greatest defence to Jihadist terrorism: a tolerant, progressive integrated civil society, which stands up to the ‘us versus them’ mentality and refuses to bow to messages of hate that are entirely predicated on sowing discord and telling groups of people that they don’t ‘belong’.”
Meanwhile, Ali Selim, a senior member of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, told the Today with Sean O’Rourke show that addressing the terrorist threat is always looked at from a security point of view.
“All the time, people are taking this issue from a security point of view and only a security perspective. Security is essential and important, but in the UK they have 20,000 people on the list and they are trying to watch them. How can you do that? The answer to that is not only a security answer.”
He said the Muslim community in Ireland has grown and that this is a good sign, showing that both Muslims and wider Irish society feel comfortable with that growth.
He said gardaí do already engage regularly with the Muslim community and have clinics in mosques on Fridays.
“They meet with Muslims and talk to them, which is fantastic,” he said.
Fazel Ryklief, a senior member of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland in Dublin, told the Irish Examiner that they too have a garda clinic at their mosque every third Friday.
“If anybody did anything out of line in relation to Islam we would inform on him,” he said. “We are very careful here.”
But he added: “It’s very unlikely if someone is going to do something that they would advertise it beforehand. A lot of it is over the internet and in private.”
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