The Eid al-Adha celebrations held at Croke Park made a lot of people very, very angry. The sight of some 200 traditionally clad muslims, praying in their traditional way, on the sacred soil of the Gaelic Athletic Association stung the hearts of many of the nation’s children. Many of my own friends, usually wise and well composed both online and off, lost themselves to seething rage on social media over the event, some stopping just short of the dreaded ‘fedposting’.
I wasn’t one of these people. In fact, the image for me arouses nothing but ambivalence.
That’s not to say anger isn’t a reasonable reaction to the event. No doubt the event that took place amounted to a complete and total desecration of the sporting grounds where Bloody Sunday took place. Desecrated in a way that will be of massive historical significance when looked back on in the far future.
However, while anger was a reasonable reaction, I do not believe it was the right one.
There is a large distinction between being reasonable and being right. For example, I do not believe that Islam, or Muslims, are right, at least in regards to theology.
However, many Muslims are indeed reasonable, some to the point of being very wise. No doubt Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri is among the wisest of the Irish Muslim community, and I would wager of the population of Ireland in general. The record shows Dr Al-Qadri as being a learned and pious man, who has proven himself on multiple occasions to be a powerful public speaker.
This praise of Dr Al-Qadri I imagine will offend a number of readers, but, again, I believe this is a grave error commonly made by nationalists. While it is right not to submit to Islam, we should never bismirch positive, saintly qualities found in the religion or its followers.
Piety and understanding are both positive traits, whether you find them in a friend or an enemy, as is wisdom. Denouncing positive qualities when they are found in any Muslim, or Islam in general, merely because you disagree with the central tenets of the religion, is pathetic. There is nothing more disdainful than a conservative bemoaning Islam for its view of women or homosexuality.
By extension, to denounce Muslims for practicing their religion in good faith I believe is in error. The celebrations that took place constitute a desecration of the grounds of Croke Park, but this was no intentional desecration on the part of Muslim community. In fact, their faith instructs them to spread and proselytize as much as possible. One does not say a kite is evil if it kills a mouse, for it is in its nature to do so. If the Muslim community, or any religious group with a divine instinct to thrive, were given the chance to practice their faith in a principle shrine of a nation, why would they ever refuse? In the immortal words of Tim Heidecker — ‘It’s free real estate’.
It is another story altogether for those who allowed the desecration to take place. While it’s foolish to ascribe moral blame on an invading army who merely ask a fifth column to open the city gates, the fifth column itself must be held responsible, whether their actions stem from malice or pure ignorance.
So who allowed this event to take place? The obvious first organization that comes to mind would be the GAA, but again, while blaming the organisation for hosting the event is reasonable, I don’t believe it’s right.
Imagine if Croke Park had been rented out to the Jehovah’s Witnesses instead of a congregation of Muslims. Jehovah’s Witnesses, while not exactly the worst when it comes to generating terrorism or anti-social behaviour, are very similar to Muslims, at least in regards to the concerns of nationalists. They have no regard for the nation, fighting instead for a globalised multinational denomination under a single organization. They also have a rather dismal view of ancient art and culture when such art and culture goes against their religion’s dogma. Despite this though, had they decided to have one of their major conventions in Croke Park, would such a conference amount to a desecration? No.
Why though? The answer the archetypical Irish Times writer would have is, in no doubt, racism, and this time they’d only be half-wrong. The fact that Islam is largely an Arab-nationalist religion definitely plays a part in making what occurred at Croke Park a desecrative event, however, it is not the key component. It is not the nationalist’s attitude towards race that makes what happened at Croke Park a desecration, but the attitude of Ireland’s political class.
The GAA frequently allows Croke Park to be used for things other than it’s primary, sporting purpose. From skyline tours to anime conventions, Croke Park over the years has been used for a wide variety of functions completely detached from its long history without incident. In this sense, the GAA’s renting out of the stadium to Al-Qadri and his congregation was just another corporate event.
What was different was the non-nationalist reaction to such a rental. Going back to my previous example, had the Jehovah’s Witnesses rented out Croker, mainstream media would not have covered it so widely, let alone given their glowing praise and approval. There would have been no tweets calling the vista of the faithful listening to their sermon ‘incredible’ or ‘powerful’. Most of all, there definitely would not have been any bishops or government ministers in attendance, expounding on how wonderful it was that an Islamic festival was being celebrated at a place ‘directly linked to Irish culture, Irish history, and Irish Identity’. When the venue was rented out for Eid al-Adha however, all the above occurred, and much, much more.
But why? Why such a response for one event and not the other? Simple. The event was used by the political class to signal for their ‘New Ireland’. This is the source of Croke Park’s desecration.
The elite ruling this island know that nationalism threatens their very existence. As such, they must constantly push against such a primal, spiritual force with endless degrading propaganda. To do so, they will not only display, but actively promote acts that undermine such a force, while simultaneously silencing as much as possible any dissent.
Not only was a foreign faith brought into one of the principle shrines of the nation, but such a spiritual invasion was paraded and promoted on both traditional and social media. Meanwhile, resistance from figures such as Justin Barrett and Gemma O’Doherty were stripped from social media platforms. You must clap for the perpetual social revolution, or else they will come for you too. This is the nature of the modern control system present in Ireland, and it is those who put this system in place that should be held responsible for the desecration of Croke Park.