Holding a large Muslim prayer service at an “iconic” Irish sports venue sent a message “to the whole world” that Ireland is a welcoming country, an Islamic leader said.
About 200 Muslims gathered at Croke Park stadium in Dublin on Friday to celebrate the Islamic holiday of Eid.
Croke Park is the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
It has been made available so that Eid can be branded in a safe and socially distant manner during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The event was delivered by Shaykh Umar Al-Qadri, Chairman of the Irish Council for Peace and Muslim Integration.
He thanked the GAA, the Croke Park management and the whole country for using the “historic” place for the prayer service and spoke a few words in Irish.
“Thank you to Ireland because today this Eid prayer sends a very strong message to the whole world that Ireland is indeed a country of céad míle fáilte [Irish phrase for a hundred thousand welcomes]”Dr Al-Qadri said.
“No matter your diversity, no matter how different you are, once you come and live here and become part of the society this island of Ireland has this great and unique ability to embrace you,” the theologian added. Islamic.
Dr Al-Qadri, who submitted the request to GAA to use the stadium for the Eid event, described the stadium as Ireland’s “most iconic and symbolic” location.
“It is a country that takes pride in its diversity and embraces those who become part of society,” he said.
Croke Park was built to showcase the traditional Irish sports of Gaelic football; hurling and camogie, but it was also used to host rock and pop concerts as well as conferences and corporate events.
It is Ireland’s largest sports arena, with a capacity of over 82,000 spectators.
The size of the hall allowed Friday worshipers to sit on prayer rugs, spaced out across the grounds.
The service was also attended by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders from Dublin, as well as a representative of the Irish government.
Irish President Michael D Higgins sent a message of goodwill to mark the occasion, in which he praised the symbolism of the Croke Park event.
“The celebration, in such an iconic Irish location, of this important holiday in the Islamic calendar is an important moment in the Irish narrative,” the president wrote.
“It is a reminder of the extremely diverse community we have become and the enormous contribution you, our new communities, have made and continue to make to Ireland. “
Dr Umar Al-Qadri used his speech to salute the work of health workers who have put their lives at risk to treat patients during the coronavirus outbreak.
He paid tribute to the late Dublin doctor Syed Waqqar Ali, who this month was the eighth healthcare worker to die in the Republic of Ireland after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
However, Dr Al-Qadri added that the pandemic had also “brought some blessings”.
“Without this pandemic, we probably wouldn’t have been here,” he told the Croke Park rally.
“Without this pandemic, our communities would not have been united.
“We understand as humans that we are in the same boat and that we face the same challenges. “