Rt Rev Dr Paul Colton said he was horrified to hear of the attack on his friend, Sheikh Ihab Ahmed, imam of Cork’s Blarney St Mosque:.
“I condemn, unreservedly, this attack, as I denounce also any similar aggression — physical, verbal or of any kind — which targets people because they appear to some to be different: In this instance, arising from race and religion. Racism and Islamophobia have no place in our society,” he said.
Mr Ahmed, 41, religious leader of the Cork Mosque Foundation, believes he was targeted by a member of an anti-Islamic group who pushed him to the ground and stole his hat as he walked with his wife on Cathedral St at around 11pm on Wednesday.
“I was in full Islamic attire, dressed from shoulder to feet in dark grey and my hat was dark green. I tried to call after him to come back but he had already run away. I always wear myIslamic attire in the city and am hearing positive comments. This is the first time. It’s very strange. I am very sorry a:bout what happened. I’m here 10 years and I didn’t feel any harm.”
He said his attacker was in his 20s and bald, and wore a white t-shirt and light- coloured trousers. He felt “severe pain” in his hands about an hour later and went to hospital where they were X-rayed and bandaged; and later made a statement at Gurranabraher Garda Station. He also said it is the third attack on a Muslim in the city in the last year that he is aware of.
He also said his wife was “very upset”. “She is saying ‘how can we live in this community, live with people hating us, who don’t like us’?”
Bishop Colton, who is among several religious leaders in the city who have been invited by the Imam to attend an Iftar dinner tonight — breaking the fast in the holy month of Ramadan — said: “Regardless of religious outlook, it is incumbent on us all to work together in society to educate, to foster understanding, to nurture good relationships and to build communities strengthened by diversity and inclusion.”
Chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, called on Cork City Council to hold a public hearing on Islamophobia and hate crimes in the city.