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Connacht Tribune

Galway Mosque opens its doors in wake of attack

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Galway’s Muslim community responded to a wanton act of vandalism on its Maryam Mosque in the best way possible – by throwing open its doors to Galwegians of all faiths and none. Reporter Paul Hyland joined them to see more.

The first thing that strikes you in the sense of openness and light; walking into the Galway Maryam Mosque, I was warmly welcomed by people – young and old, men and women, Muslims and Christians.

The Mosque held a community open day to show people their place of worship, to help them understand what it really means to be a Muslim and to undo the false assumptions about Islamic people.

The open day was organised in the wake of the act of vandalism that was carried out on the Mosque – an attack that may have been seen in some warped mind as a response to the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.

The first thing I was struck by was jovial atmosphere at the Mosque. It was everything you would expect from a typically Irish event. There were children of all backgrounds chasing each other around the grounds; oblivious of the context in which this event was being held.

Sr Chanel (left) and Sr Evelyn of the Presentation Sisters, Athenry, are greeted by members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community during their visit to the open day at the Maryam mosque on the Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit.

Dr Mamoon Rashid moved to Ireland in 1999. Originally from the UK, Dr Rashid explained the key principles of Islam to me; how his people worship and how Islam doesn’t allow anyone who carries out acts of violence to consider themselves a real Muslim.

“A mosque is a place of worship for the Muslim community, where we come to pray five times a day and it’s all about having a relationship with God. It’s a relationship that is based on love and following the teachings of Islam which are basically two things, one is the rights of people and the other is the rights of God,” he said.

“So if you’re praying five times a day, a Muslim man or woman should become a really good human being. And that’s why when we talk about the terrorist we say that they cannot be Muslims.

“Because if you pray as a Muslim, the rights of human beings are first. So if you are not performing those rights you cannot be a Muslim. The prayer doesn’t work. You have your own false gods or ignorance, you have false gods of pride, you have false gods of violence,” continued Dr Rashid.

As you enter the Mosque the amount of light in the prayer hall – even on a typically overcast Galway day – is the clearest metaphor for the closeness to God that Dr Rashid and his community strive for.

The hallway leading into the prayer hall was decorated with posters and books filled with information about Islam. Here visitors and their hosts chatted about religion, community, family and the importance of these types of all-inclusive events.

More than one person remarked on the sense of shame they felt when the Mosque was attacked.

Qanita Noonan, Faheen Noonan and Zarin Rashid of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community meeting with Paul and Siobhan Lawless and their son Cian of the Foods of Athenry during the open day in the Maryam mosque on the Old Monivea Road, Ballybrit.

One interaction, in particular, encapsulated the true community spirit of Galway as an elderly Irish man was putting back on his shoes. Three men from the Mosque came to his assistance. They got him a chair and put on his shoes for him.

The man responded simply by saying: “Thank you very much and I’m terribly sorry for what they did to your church.”

Imam Ibrahim Noonan is the Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslims in Ireland. Originally from Waterford, Imam Noonan converted to Islam while studying theology in London.

He has a unique understanding of what it means to be painted with the wrong brush. During the 1980s, while living in London, Imam Noonan came under scrutiny – as did most Irish people – due to the IRA bombings in the UK.

Now, a devout Muslim, Imam Noonan is coming under the same racially-motivated judgment because of acts of terror that are no more associated with him than the IRA ones were previously.

“At that time every Irish person [in the UK] was considered a potential terrorist. Of course, that wasn’t the case and that is the exact same case with Muslims.

“There’s about 80,000 Muslims living in Ireland, so 99.999% of them would have no desire to be anything like these people on London bridge and so, therefore, their feeling the same anxiety that the Irish would have felt at that time,” said Imam Noonan.

“The Galway people are brilliant. The last few days has proven it; since this nonsense has happened here,” continued Imam Noonan.

The pressure Muslim people feel when an act of terror is committed in the name of Allah is what Imam Noonan describes and an “inner guilt,” and the need to constantly explain themselves.

What I saw last Saturday was the farthest thing from the events on London Bridge. I saw incredibly polite men and women, who showed respect and kindness each other and their visitors.

There were hugs and handshakes abound and an honest effort from Galway residents to make help the Muslims community feel welcome.

Sisters Chanel and Evelyn – nuns from the Presentation Convent in Athenry – were two such locals there to lend their support the Galway Muslim community.

“I know the Imam’s wife very well, she comes up to the resource centre, in Doughishka, and I just wanted to show some solidarity. I was sorry for what happened,” said Sr Chanel.

Support came also in the shape of Galway West TD Noel Grealish who had this message for the Muslim community in Galway.

“We have a good vibrant Muslim community in Galway and they’re part of our community and a lot of them are business people and provide a lot of jobs,” he said.

And it’s a relationship that works both ways – with Galway’s Muslim community anxious to emphasise its openness to people of all faiths and none.

Or as Imam Noonan put it: “Islam is a religion of peace. I’m here all the time. Come and visit the Mosque. If you have questions about Islam or about why these things are happening, I’m always ready to answer the questions and understand that the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is here to serve the people of Ireland.”

As I was about to leave I was a stopped by a young man who invited me for tea with the organisers.

I thanked him and but said I was on my way out. He was having none of it and seconds later I was sitting down at a table with biscuits, cake and tea laid out in front me.

And what could be more Irish than that?

Connacht Tribune

Football’s a funny old game – and you can quote me on that

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

If someone actually made it a requirement of your commitment to your job that you run through a brick wall for them, surely the people from health and safety would have to intervene?

And yet this the ultimate tribute a manager pays to their star player, as a way of suggesting he or she would always go the extra yard.

Never mind that the world now measures in metres, but whatever the currency, what would be the point of going a yard or metre further than was required?

Because going the extra yard would mean you’ve gone too far, which sort of defeats the whole plan in the first place.

And yet you hear it all the time, because sports stars have a way of giving an interview which revolves around half a dozen stock answers – all of which leave you none the wiser when it’s over.

Managers learn how to expand on these stock replies to incorporate a whole new range of clichés that fill airtime but answer nothing.

More to the point, they often mean nothing too.

Because where else in life would 100 per cent commitment to the particular cause never be quite enough – given that everyone else was giving 110 per cent?

And yet that too is among those most common clichés expressed in post-match set-piece interviews; packed to the wall with observations that actually mean precisely nothing.

Those post-game interviews were in the news for more serious reasons in recent weeks, after one of the biggest stars of the world of tennis, Naomi Osaka, declined to do them during the French Open because she said that negative questions on her performance were impacting on her mental health.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
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Connacht Tribune

Sporting organisations letting us down by rolling over to NPHET

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Galway players Niamh McGrath and Siobhan Gardiner show their disappointment after falling to Kilkenny in Sunday's National Camogie League final at Croke Park. Photo: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Inside Track with John McIntyre

IRELAND’S various big sporting organisations continue to embarrass themselves in relation to how they are handling the Covid pandemic. Being slaves to public health guidelines is one thing, but these bodies have introduced some rules of their own which are only further alienating their support base.

The GAA, IRFU, the FAI and Horse Racing Ireland may be currently dependent on public finances to keep their respective shows on the road, but that can’t excuse their lack of independent thinking or the fact they are making a deeply frustrating situation worse by adding in their own Covid-19 regulations

In effect, these sporting bodies are trying too hard to please NPHET and it doesn’t seem to matter how much they inconvenience or antagonise their grassroots in the process. Take the GAA, for instance. At club level dressing rooms remain closed and that causes significant irritation, especially on wet days.

Horse Racing Ireland is no better. Two owners per runner have been allowed back at race meetings and while that number is about to increase to four, there has been little enthusiasm among the cohort of people who pay the bills to return. And why would they? – no catering, no bookies and no atmosphere. And the most absurd thing of all is that the racing authorities are still enforcing the mask-wearing regulation.

Imagine still having to use a face covering in what amounts to big open fields. Is Horse Racing Ireland clueless as to how foolish jockeys, trainers, the few owners and media people present are being made to look, especially when the risk of contracting Covid is negligible in such an environment? All the while, beaches, public parks and walkways are milling with people.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

The thrill of learning

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Embracing education: Anna Keane who will begin a BA in September; Anne Marie Ward who is doing a part-time degree in Youth, Community and Family Studies; Owen Ward who has a Master’s in Education and works at NUIG; and Jason Sherlock who will embark on a Master’s in International Finance in September. All entered NUIG via its Access Programme.

Lifestyle – Most members of the Travelling community are unlikely to finish secondary education and only a tiny proportion go to university. But for people who want an academic education, NUIG is leading the way. Four keen learners share their stories with JUDY MURPHY, among them post-graduate Owen Ward who works in NUIG’s Access Office, assisting people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Starting third-level education can be daunting for even the most confident teenager. Entering a massive campus, meeting so many new people, trying to figure out timetables, deciding what societies to join and just finding your feet – those early weeks can be a challenge.

That’s how Jason Sherlock felt when the young city man began his degree at NUIG in 2018. A member of the Travelling community, Jason had more reason than most to feel daunted in this educational establishment. According to the 2016 Census, only one percent of Travellers go on to third level – although that has increased slightly since then, thanks to people like Jason and his mentor, Owen Ward, a Programme Coordinator in the university’s Access Office.

Jason, who entered university though the Access Programme, which supports students from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’, will begin studying for a Master’s in International Finance in September, having completed a degree in Economics, Sociology and Political Science.

As we meet on the campus at NUIG on a sunny Friday, he recalls having his photo taken by the Tribune 11 years ago, on his final day at Scoil Bhríde National School in Shantalla, where he had never missed a day.

But university was different. Initially, Jason felt it wasn’t for him and almost dropped out of his course. That’s where Owen Ward appeared. Owen who graduated from NUIG in 2014, having also entered via the Access Programme, was back doing a Master’s in Education.  He heard Jason was on campus and went looking for him among the 18,000 students.

“I didn’t know Jason at the time but I knew his father. And I tracked him down,” he recalls with a laugh. Having done that, he was able to support the younger man in those difficult early days. Jason found his feet and with Owen went on to set up Mincéirs Whiden, a new society at NUIG. The first of its kind in any third-level institution, Mincéirs Whiden is for Traveller students but is open to all. Members include students from the settled community, Irish and international.

Anne Marie Ward, who is beginning her third year of a part-time degree in Youth, Community and Family Studies, is the incoming chair of Mincéirs Whiden.

She’s also the new Ethnic Minorities Officer for the NUIG Students’ Union, the first member of the Travelling Community to be elected to a position in the student body.  She is Owen’s sister.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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