"[In France], if you have a beard like this you would never find a job," said Riadh Mahmoudi, a 35-year-old Algerian immigrant, gesturing to his chin. "My
wife, for example, wears the full niqab. If she wears the niqab [in France], she would be in trouble. She would be fined. You don't see these things happen
To be sure, Muslims in Ireland confront their share of challenges, especially recent arrivals. During the last decade, unemployment among immigrants was
consistently higher as compared to Irish nationals. That gap only widened with the onset of the economic recession.
They also face a different culture and climate, as well as a new language. Even those who arrive speaking English have struggled.
"If I talked to someone from the north [side of Dublin], I wouldn't understand anything," said Bushra Ibrahim, a 43-year-old mother of five who immigrated
from Iraq a decade ago. "It is English, but it doesn't sound like English."
Head coverings worn by some Muslim women in Ireland sometimes attract unwanted attention. Ibrahim said that once she was approached by half a dozen
teenagers who addressed her as "Paki" and told her to "go home."
Isolated incidents aside, Ibrahim and other Muslims said they find parity between their own faith life and their adopted country's conservative religious
history. They like that the Catholic-dominated education system offers numerous single-sex schools, and said that school officials typically accommodate
the needs of Muslim students, including dietary restrictions and uniform modifications.
"The articulation of a religious identity in the public arena is not seen to be that problematic," Scharbrodt said. "In Ireland, religion and politics have
always been connected together."
The story of Muslims in Ireland will likely grow more complicated in the coming years, Scharbrodt said. The community is no longer made up entirely of
students and professionals, but now includes many asylum seekers with little education and few skills.
The socioeconomic shift has broad implications. There is a certain nostalgia among long-established Muslims for an earlier time when members of the
religious minority were closely associated with education and elite career fields, Scharbrodt said.
What's more, some children of Muslim immigrants could find themselves straddling two worlds and not really feeling at home in either, a reality for many
young people in other parts of Europe, Scharbrodt said.
Still, Muslims said they see a bright future as they carve out a place for their faith in Ireland. It will likely include plenty of growth -- the population
is projected to hit 125,000 by 2030, according to an analysis published by the Pew Research Center.
After being approved by the Dublin City Council in March, the proposed Clongriffin Islamic center is now under appeal -- but the biggest complaints about
the project aren't its purpose, but rather over its size and potential impact on traffic.
"Once you make this place your home, and once your neighbor feels okay with you becoming his neighbor and that you have made your home next door to him,
that is integration," El Bauzari. "For me, it has already happened. My neighbors are Irish. My kids go with Irish kids to school. I think it is really a
positive story to tell from this country."