Muslim leaders concerned over ‘extremist’ scholars at student conference

Two Muslim leaders have expressed serious concerns over what they claim are “extremist” Middle Eastern Islamic scholars speaking at a two-day student conference, starting today.

Muslim leaders concerned over ‘extremist’ scholars at student conference

One of the leaders, Shia Imam Ali al-Saleh, said he had brought his concerns in relation to the two Kuwaiti clerics to gardaí.

A second leader, Sunni Imam Umar al-Qadri, called for a debate about allowing “radical” speakers address young Muslims here.

The speakers attending the conference are Othman Alkhamees, who studied under Saudi Shakyh Saleh al-Uthaymin, described as “a giant within conservative Salafi Islam”, and Khaled Alotaibi, a scholar in Sharia law and member of a Kuwaiti sharia committee.

The event is organised by an Irish Kuwaiti student organisation, Thabat, and the Islamic Foundation of Ireland, which is hosting the event in Dublin.

The foundation, known as the Dublin Mosque, is one of the city’s busiest mosques. Its imam, Yahya al-Hussein rejected claims of extremism regarding the speakers, saying they “weren’t true” and that there was “no cause for concern”.

However, imam al-Saleh of the Shia mosque in Milltown, Dublin, said the two scholars were “well known” Salafis, an orthodox doctrine. “Salafi and Wahhabi ideology is about spreading extremism and sectarianism,” imam al-Saleh said, citing their views towards Shia and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians and Jews. “If we want to protect our youth, we have to stop these kinds of preachers and stop them getting access to students.” He confirmed he had contacted gardaí about the two speakers.

Dr al-Qadri of the Sunni Blanchardstown mosque said the speakers were Salafis and “known to be very orthodox and radical”.

In addition to leading Friday prayers, he said the scholars were also holding fatwa sessions — question and answer meetings.

“People can ask questions about day-to-day life as a Muslim,” said Dr al-Qadri.

“It could be anything: religious, but also political matters, about homosexuality, about democracy. People assume these fatwas are binding, which is worrying. They are not eligible to give fatwas here. They don’t live here,” he said.

He said the Dutch parliament discusses visits of foreign Islamic scholars: “In Ireland there is no discussion of this. The speakers can say what they like, no one knows.”

However, imam al-Hussein of the Dublin mosque rejected the claims: “There is no cause for concern, they are reasonable people.”

He said claims of extremism were not true. He said Dr Alkhamees had been coming to the mosque for 10 years and knew him well. He said there was nothing wrong with Salafis and said it simply meant “those who came after the prophet”.

He said Salafi Kuwaitis participated in elections there and were “not against democracy”. Efforts to contact Thabat failed.

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