herald

Friday 19 July 2019

Imam urges Irish Muslims not to join in fighting with forces in the Middle East

A PROMINENT imam has urged Irish Muslims not to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight in the civil wars raging in those countries.

It comes as it emerged that gardai are monitoring those fighters who have returned to Ireland from the war zones.

Although it is unclear exactly how many Irish citizens have travelled to fight, one estimate puts the figure at around 30.

There have also been four people with Irish links killed during the fighting in Syria.

Europeans have also gone to fight with the Sunni Muslim extremists, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who are attempting to overrun Iraq.

The group believes that the Shiites are apostates and must die in order to forge a pure form of Islam.

Yahya Al-Hussein, an imam at the Sunni mosque on Dublin's South Circular Road, has urged Irish Muslims not to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight.

"We don't advise anybody to go. If they come and talk to us, this is what we say," he told the Herald.

"Most of the time we don't know who has gone. We don't know how many have gone, we would never advise anyone to go.

The Oireachtas Justice Committee has been told of concerns that some fighters could have become so radicalised while in the war zones that they could present a security threat when they come home.

Fine Gael TD David Stanton, the chairman of that committee, was informed about the fighters in a briefing by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The first fighter with Irish links to die in Syria was Egyptian-born Hudhaifa El Sayed (22), from Drogheda, who was shot by regime forces in northern Syria in December 2012.

In February last year Libyan-born Shamseddin Gaidan (16) from Navan was killed after he went to Syria without his parents' permission.

In late April that year, Jordanian-born Alaa Ciymeh (26), who grew up in Dublin, was also killed.

He had travelled to Syria as part of Liwa al-Umma, a rebel brigade founded by a Libyan-Irish man named Mehdi al-Harati, who also commanded a unit during the Libyan revolution.

In June last year, Hisham Habbash (29) died after joining rebel forces battling president Bashar al-Assad.

The Habbash family, who are Palestinian, moved from Libya to Ireland when Hisham was very young. He took Irish citizenship and graduated with an engineering degree from UCD.

This month, the European Commission discussed further cooperation between member states on anti-terrorist intelligence, especially on fighters returning from war-zones.

lbyrne@herald.ie

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