THE US GOVERNMENT asked its Irish embassy to compile a profile of a Dublin-based Muslim think tank, according to one of the latest embassy cables published by WikiLeaks.
The Bush administration asked its Dublin embassy to evaluate whether the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) was trying to have Sharia law recognised in Europe.
The cable, written in July 2006 by then-US ambassador James Kenny, was addressed to then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, and copied to other embassies in Europe and the Middle East.
It details how Washington asked its Dublin embassy to answer a series of questions on whether Irish-based groups like the ECFR, which is headquartered in Clonskeagh at the mosque of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Ireland, were trying to introduce Sharia law.
The ECFR is chaired by Qatar-based Egyptian cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 84, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the embassy told Washington. He is now better known for the conservative views shared on his weekly talk show on Al-Jazeera.
Among al-Qaradawi’s controversial views are that homosexuality is punishable by death, and that “lightly” beating one’s wife is permissible if all other means of persuasion have proven unsuccessful. Al-Qaradawi is considered a high-ranking leader within the Muslim Brotherhood’s intellectual movement.
The US was apparently concerned that the ECFR and similar groups were trying to force greater legal recognition for Islamic Sharia law in Western Europe, fearing that such laws were not compatible with democracy.
Ambassador James Kenny wrote that the ECFR was not a “proselytising body”, and was instead attempting to become a European authority on how Islamic law should be interpreted by Muslims living in Europe. He described it as little more than a “paper tiger”, with no real authority to implement its guidelines, and no full-time staff.
However, three officers of the ICCI – including its Imam, Hussein Halawa - were working on its behalf, Kenny added.
‘Al-Qaradawi runs Islam in Ireland’
The cable suggests that the views of other Muslim leaders and journalists on the roles of Halawa and al-Qaradawi were sought by the embassy.
Some of the more moderate leaders – most significantly Ali al-Saleh, who leads a congregation of around 250 Iraqi Shi’a Muslims in Milltown – believed Halawa and other leaders of the ICCI were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Having spoken with al-Saleh and others about Halawa, Kenny concluded:
It is doubtful that he, [another senior ICCI official Ali] Saleem, or others suspected of MB [Muslim Brotherhood] involvement operate independently of some informal conservative Islamic or MB hierarchy.
Kenny cites the advice of one unnamed journalist, who said the Muslim Brotherhood was stronger in Ireland than anywhere in the world outside of Qatar, and that al-Qaradawi “runs Islam in Ireland”.
Some integrationist Islamic teachers claimed that Halawa owed his position as Imam to the Dubai-based Maktoum family, which funded the construction of the Clonskeagh facility but takes “little or no attention” to its operations. They also believed that Halawa served “at the pleasure of al-Qaradawi”.
The cable adds that the smaller mosque on the South Circular Road is more radical, and is known in the Muslim community as the ‘Tora Bora’ mosque for its high population of Afghan and Bosnian Jihadists.
The Blackpitts mosque in Dublin’s south inner city – sponsored by Pakistani academic and former Progressive Democrat local elections candidate Mazhar Bari – was meanwhile named by Kenny as a “suspected… gathering place for some radical elements within the Pakistani community”.
Dublin was also asked to provide profiles of “groups and individuals who promote a clearly pluralist, tolerant form of political Islam in Europe”, looking to identifying individual Muslim leaders with whom the embassy could spread a pro-US message among Ireland’s Muslim communities.
The memo implies a need for greater liaison between the US and al-Saleh and his Milltown mosque, who had concluded in conversations with the embassy that “you can’t have Islam without democracy”.
Though al-Saleh had little experience dealing with the media or Irish government – whose dealings with the Muslim community apparently stretched no further than Halawa – the embassy said it had been helping him gain greater prominence.
Kenny wrote that he was heartened by a ghost-written “positive” opinion piece, published in al-Saleh’s name by the Irish Times a few months before the memo was written.