Ireland's Muslim population has grown tenfold in 20 years and is still expanding. But official Ireland is failing to engage with the increasing number of ethnic and political groups
'Down a road on an industrial estate in Togher, a suburb two kilometres south of Cork city centre, stands a nondescript former engineering premises whose future will mark a significant chapter in the story of Islam in Ireland. Within a year the hulking concrete building will be transformed into a mosque complex capable of accommodating 1,000 or so worshippers. Design plans show a crescent-topped glass tower overlooking gleaming white arches and domes. The one-acre site will be the second-biggest such complex in the country, after the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), in Clonskeagh in Dublin, and the second purpose-built Sunni mosque outside the capital. It is yet another sign of the deep roots Islam has laid in Ireland.
"This is a very important step for us," says Salim al-Faituri, the mosque's Libyan-born imam. "We have been moving from one rented premises to another for years. Finally we will have a place of our own." The new mosque, funded by donations including one €800,000 gift from a Qatari benefactor, will cater for 6,000 Muslims in Cork and several thousand more living in its hinterland.
"This is the second-biggest Muslim community outside Dublin," says Ahmed H Zahran, an Egyptian academic at University College Cork who sits on the mosque committee. "And it's growing."