By Councillor John Lyons, Independent Left
Across most of Europe, far-right parties have a strong presence, with parties like National Rally in France (formerly the Front National), Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the anti-Islam Freedom party in Holland and Golden Dawn in Greece. In Ireland, despite several attempts to get a racist project off the ground, the far-right have so far faltered. In part, this is because historically the racist agenda in Ireland has been linked to a very conservative Catholic agenda, which is in retreat from the spirit of our recent times.
It would be a mistake, however, for the left to be complacent. It is clear that the fears of a fragile middle class and the misplaced anger of marginalised working class communities could potentially provide a constituency for an Irish far-right movement.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community offer a version of Islam that rejects terrorism and advocates the separation of mosque and state. They own a mosque on the Old Ballybrit Road, Galway and this has been a focus for racist activity for some years. Early on Monday 29 July, an incident took place that demonstrated the existence of people who would organise a far-right party here and what that would mean for Muslims and other minority groups in Ireland. The Iman’s office was broken into and wrecked, with his family photographs and books scattered onto the street. The attackers were careful to take the security equipment.
Understandably, this has, according to M.A. Malik, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association of Ireland, terrified the local Muslim community.
Two years ago, on 5 June 2017, Just after eleven p.m., while many of their members were inside for prayer, the windows of the same mosque were smashed in by rocks. This attack followed a spate of anti-Muslim graffiti in the city.
The link behind these attacks was made explicit to the Iman, Ibrahim Noonan, who received an anonymous call three months ago in which two far-right groups operating in Ireland were mentioned (along with the name of Tommy Robinson).
Currently, such sinister figures are relatively isolated and after both attacks, a broad swathe of the local community rallied around the Ahmadiyya Community. Galway Anti-Racism Network is an important force for organising the support that exists for Muslims and asylum seekers. And for those wanting to donate to the mosque, there is currently a charity 5k event that you can support.
In response to the recent attack, on my Facebook page I said:
Last November a hotel earmarked for those seeking international protection was burnt out in Moville Donegal, another in Rooskey Roscommon last January and now an attack on a mosque in Galway.
Hateful crimes each one of them, and the target in each instance were minorities – refugees and a Muslim community – often attacked by mainstream politicians and the far-right right across the world as the source of their particular society’s ills.
Nothing could be further from the truth but hate never lets facts get in the way.
We must condemn every attack, verbal and physical, we must stand with our sisters and brothers against the forces of division, hate and violence.
It was quite incredible but yet somewhat inevitable how quickly my post yesterday in support of those at the receiving end of anti-immigrant and anti-Islam attacks degenerated into a thread of nonsensical, ‘Look After Our Own First’ crap. Admittedly, it was only a handful of Facebook users but enough to distract from the main message of my original post.
To diminish or dismiss the lived realities of people facing attacks because of the colour of their skin, place of origin or religious faith is a kind of violence that can slowly corrupt a society.
The problems people face in the twenty-first century, in Ireland and elsewhere, in securing decent, affordable housing, having a job that pays well and is secure, getting their kids through school, accessing high quality health care when needed, are problems created by a capitalist economic system that benefits a tiny elite and leaves the rest of us fighting over the scraps.
Focusing your anger at austerity and the gross global inequalities in wealth and income on immigrants or Muslims lets the billionaires and millionaires, and their politician flunkies, off the hook.
We need to unite and fight for a better world for all.