For the past three years, the Irish government has been lobbying the Egyptian government in favor of Ibrahim Halawa, son of Sheikh Hussein Halawa, imam of the Clonskeagh mosque which is attached to the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland.
Halawa was arrested by Cairo police in August 2013 during the occupation of the Al-Fath mosque by Islamic extremists. Despite representations on his behalf by Irish officials, his family in Ireland is accusing the Irish government of racism for not doing enough to get Halawa released, although under international law, Ireland cannot interfere in legal proceedings in another country.
The ECFR is led by Halawa’s colleague Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the religious leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the most extreme Muslim clerics in the world. Al-Qaradawi is banned from entering the U.S. and the UK because of his support for terrorism.
The Halawa children – Ibrahim, Omaima, Fatima and Somaia – went to Egypt as Muslim Brotherhood activists, a fact demonstrated by a video posted on YouTube on August 1, 2013 by Nosayba Halawa showing the Halawas addressing the Muslim Brotherhood protest at Rabaa al-Adawya square.
“My name is Omaima Halawa, and I came from Ireland to stand with my people, with my brothers and sisters. We will bring democracy back, Please Allah!”
“My name is Somaia from Ireland. And I came here in March to settle down in Egypt because I thought Egypt brought democracy, and I believed I would live in Egypt in pride and dignity. After the coup, I was looking for a job and did two interviews. And I decided to stop looking for work until we defeat the coup and bring democracy back.”
In a phone call from the Al-Fath mosque, Ibrahim Halawa said he had been at the protests since “since day one” (June 28, 2013), that “the Army and the cops” were “working together” to kill the Muslim Brotherhood, that Egypt was “my country” and Ireland was “the country I live in” and that he was ready to be an Islamic martyr.
Halawa conveniently forgot these bellicose statements in a letter he sent from prison on August 17, 2016:
“I was arrested while on holiday in Egypt in 2013. My three older sisters and I, all Irish citizens, were caught up in a protest in Cairo.”
The Halawas’ claim that they were on holiday and were accidentally caught up in the demonstration as innocent victims is a flat-out lie. They went to Egypt to foment rebellion and far from being innocent victims they were willing and active participants in a Muslim Brotherhood attempt to overthrow the government.
The Irish media immediately jumped to the defense of the Halawas. The Irish Independent newspaper ran this headline on August 17, 2013: “Four Members of Irish Family Stranded in Egyptian Mosque” while the Irish Times reported: “Four Irish Among Hundreds Trapped in Cairo Mosque.” At no point did the media address the question of what the Halawas were doing in Cairo, nor what their affiliations were.
For the past three years, a coalition of left-wing politicians, journalists, human rights activists and Islamists has been campaigning for Halawa’s release, on the basis that he is an innocent Irish citizen being held in a Cairo jail for no valid reason.
Back in Egypt, the trial of Halawa was adjourned for the fourteenth time in June 2016. The Irish government was represented at the court hearing and a spokesman expressed “deep disappointment and concern” at the outcome. Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan shares the Halawa family’s frustration and issued the following statement :
“I will be conveying my concerns about this delay directly to the Egyptian government. I will be seeking more information of the review of technical evidence ordered by the court and its likely impact on this trial. Yesterday I met Ibrahim’s father and sister and reassured them of my own and the government’s continued commitment to achieving our two objectives: to secure Ibrahim’s return to Ireland as soon as possible and to ensure his welfare during his detention.”
The position of the Irish government would seem to ignore the claim made by the Egyptian ambassador to Ireland in August 2015 that the Halawa family “is part of the Muslim Brotherhood,” a terrorist organization. Such a position is not surprising in a country with strong pro-Palestinian leanings and strident hostility towards Israel.
In May 2016, Irish politician and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan expressed support for the BDS movement, affirming they held a “legitimate political viewpoint” and that the Irish Government “does not agree with attempts to demonise” them. Nevertheless in 2015, Ireland imported more than $100 million of Israeli goods and the value of Irish exports to Israel exceeded $1 billion.
There is a deeper reason for Ireland’s pro-Palestinian and pro-Islamist stance. Tolerance of radical Islam may be the price that Ireland is willing to pay in order to be spared the terror attacks that have been planned and executed throughout Europe in recent years.
See Related Story: Islamic Extremism in Ireland (Part I): Brotherhood Thriving
Leslie Shaw is an Associate Professor at the Paris campus of ESCP Europe Business School and President of FIRM (Forum on Islamic Radicalism and Management).