Head Irish imam of the Islamic Centre Ireland set for US visit

An Irish Muslim cleric has been invited to the US by its government to discuss ways of countering extremism.

Head Irish imam of the Islamic Centre Ireland set for US visit

The head imam of the Islamic Centre Ireland, Shaykh Umar al-Qadri, has been invited to take part in the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP).

IVLP is the US Department of State’s premier professional exchange programme; former British prime minister Tony Blair has previously participated in it.

The imam will visit four cities — Washington DC, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and and Denver — as part of a dialogue on how to counter violent extremism.

“Every year they invite visitors to engage with American citizens and the programme, which has different themes, is administered by the US Department of State,” Shaykh Umar al-Qadri told the Irish Examiner.

“They have created a specific programme on countering violent extremism. “In total, they have identified 10 people from a range of European countries that are seen as experts on countering violent extremism.

“They want to learn how the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council is working on countering violent extremism.”

Some key things which the imam will say as part of the dialogue relate to Muslim communities in the US and how people in general talk about religious radicals.

“We will be looking at how Muslim communities in the US are collaborating with the government and independently to counter violent extremism,” he said.

“Also how we use phrases like ‘radical Islam’. I think we should avoid it because we are legitimising these minorities. There is nothing Islamic about their actions. The phrase has a negative impact on society and creates a stereotype.

“Furthermore, while we acknowledge that there is extremism we must be clear in identifying this as a minority [of people] where religion is not the motivating factor.”

Shaykh Umar al-Qadri said US president Donald Trump’s “rhetoric” was not a reason to decline to meet him, as a dialogue must be kept open.

“We, each one of us who wants peace and diversity, must always be open for dialogue with anybody,” he said.

“If I get an opportunity to sit and meet with President Trump I will accept that, not because he’s now the president but because it’s important that he engages with Muslims. We must be careful not to destroy bridges but instead create them and dialogue too.”

Shaykh Umar al-Qadri also pointed out that Mr Trump sat and listened to the Koran being read, “with respect”, at a prayer service last Saturday.

In order for diverse communities to “coexist peacefully” together, the imam said that prejudices need to be set aside.

“We need to get rid of all of the prejudices and enter into dialogue, there needs to be neutrality without prejudice in order to find a way of going forward,” he said.

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