What is it like to study abroad in Ireland as a Muslim?
Mohammed, our DCU and Iraqi Ambassador shares his experience as Muslim international student in Ireland and in this blog discusses everything from his favourite mosques to fasting and the best places to find halal…
There are 63,000 Muslims in Ireland as of the latest census of 2016. There are also about 50 mosques in the Republic but as far as I’m aware there are five qualified preachers so do check that the mosque offers what you are looking for beforehand.
Finding a mosque
In terms of mosques, I go to two in Dublin. The first, and my favourite so far, is the Dublin Mosque in South Circular Road. In this mosque, you will find services such as bathrooms which include ablution spots, many copies of the Quran, copies of religious books, a halal shop, a halal cafe, and most importantly the place is clean and smells nice and is adequately designed to satisfy the needs of privacy for Muslim women. As for practice, they host the five prayers and Taraweeh in Ramadan as a group every time, they have a calendar with prayer times for distribution, they have an option for “I’itiqaf / إعتكاف” which is nice around Ramadan, but the places are limited so plan accordingly. They also have services for Zakatul Fitr, and donations. The mosque hosts both Eid prayers, and they give adequate notice as to when the prayer time is.
The second would be the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Dublin 14. Naturally being the middle of South Dublin, this mosque is bigger, newer, cleaner and has better parking. This mosque provides all the services as the Dublin Mosque, so you might wonder why I like the first one more. Simply put, the first one has a warmer feeling and the patrons there are more welcoming (and sometimes very huggy). Also, the first mosque has a place that’s 200 meters away called Favourite Fried Chicken (FFC), and honestly it is the best fried chicken I’ve ever had!
Find the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland on Google Maps and if you are thinking about the chicken… you can find them here!
As for praying, I suggest visiting either of the two websites above to get precise prayer times and as a student, you should know that you have the right to pray on campus when you need. Most universities will have an “inter-faith centre” where you can pray. Furthermore, professors around here are very understanding, and if you were late to class because you did not want to miss a prayer you could just say so, and I would say 99% of them would not mind at all.
Fasting and food choices in Ireland
Ramadan this year, and the coming 6-8 years, will be in the summer or late spring which means the time between dawn and sunset is at least 16 hours. If you are a person that always fasts for Ramadan, this means that you might encounter Ramadan during exam times. It also means that you need to be smart about your diet which essentially means don’t overeat and try to consume more liquids after sunset rather than more food. Oh and avoid salt or fried foods.
And for eating, Ireland is officially a Roman-Catholic country which means as per the rules of the Quran you are allowed to eat their non-vegetarian produce (excluding non-halal animal meats of course). However, if you are too picky about your food do not worry. There are many “Halal” shops dotted around the city–Clanbrassil Street in Dublin 8 has a good selection.
In restaurants, you have the right to ask about what is in your food so do not hesitate to ask about the ingredients of an item on the menu beforehand, and you should get an answer. And to be honest, my experience has been extremely nice with waitresses/waiters in restaurants since if they sense you are a Muslim they generally will warn about a sauce containing alcohol or if the meat is a mix of beef or pork and so on. I was in Butlers Cafe once to buy some chocolate packs for my family, and I had five boxes of chocolate at the counter, and the cashier told me to hold on for a second as she wanted to “check something for me”. I was kind of shocked at how considerate she was when she warned about the mix of chocolate containing alcohol so it would not be halal and she suggested that I pick another mix. Another time was in Murphy’s Ice Cream where I asked the server for a scoop of ice cream and again, she was considerate enough to warn me about it containing alcohol. It is the little things like these that say a lot about the culture in Ireland. And finally, if you want to go to pubs in Ireland, do not hesitate! All pubs in Ireland have many options for non-alcoholic beverages. My personal favourite would be Ginger Ale.
Is Ireland an Islamophobic country?
The big question and my answer would be no. Has there been any reports of Islamophobia around here? Yes, but they are in the minority and the culture here is tolerant toward all cultures and people. The one thing that Irish culture does not tolerate is racism and segregation so you should feel welcome and safe during your stay. And for the women, you should not worry about wearing a hijab as there are no laws against it in Ireland and people here understand your right to wear one.
I personally frequently read the Quran on the train and no one ever bullied me or even looked at me in condescending way. I always tell people that I will be back in 15 minutes for a prayer break and no one ever passed judgement onto me over that. In Ramadan of 2016, some of my friends even decided to fast one day with me. To sum it all up, my experience as a Muslim in Ireland is simply top notch. I did not experience bullying, I was not looked down upon, and I feel safe.
Do you have any more questions? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.