Islamic Religious Education in Ireland

Insights and Perspectives

by Youcef Sai (Author)
©2020 Monographs X, 224 Pages
Series: Religion, Education and Values, Volume 1000002


This book is a timely and significant contribution to the growing body of empirical studies in Islamic education but also to the wider public at a time when intercultural understanding is so urgently needed. This invaluable research is of relevance to not only those interested in the world of religions and religious education but also those interested in understanding the dynamics of Muslims and Islam in the West.
—Professor Jenny Berglund, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education, Stockholm University
Islam is the fastest growing religion in Ireland. Given the debate over the role of faith-based schools in secular societies in the twenty - first century, this book provides deeper insight and understanding into the role of ethos and the teaching and learning of Islamic religious knowledge (IRE) in two primary Irish state funded Muslim schools.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Illustrations
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Religious Education in Europe
  • Chapter 2 Historical Background of IRE
  • Chapter 3 Debates, Definitions and Contemporary Research on Muslim Schools and IRE
  • Chapter 4 Religious Education in Ireland and Perspectives on the Rationale for Irish State-Funded Muslim Schools
  • Chapter 5 An Exploration of Ethos Inside Two Irish Muslim Schools
  • Chapter 6 Insights and Perspectives on the Teaching of Arabic, the Quran and Islamic Studies in Two Irish Muslim Schools
  • Chapter 7 Discussion and Conclusion
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

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In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. All praise is due to Him, my Lord and source of knowledge and guidance.

My Lord! grant me that I may give thanks for Thy favour which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do good which pleases Thee and do good to me in respect of my offspring. (Quran, chapter 46; verse 15)

May His peace and blessings be upon His final Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, who said that ‘whoever does not give thanks to the people does not give thanks to Allah’.

I would like to begin by sincerely thanking Dr David Limond (School of Education, Trinity College Dublin) for his supervision of my PhD thesis from which this monograph originates. I am grateful for his constant feedback and support throughout those years. In the School of Education. I would also like to show appreciation to Dr Aidan Seery, Dr Andrew Loxley and the rest of the staff for their assistance academically and otherwise, as well as the Heffernan Bursary Fund and Cultures and Academic, Values and Education Centre (CAVE) for their generous support.

I would to like to extend my sincerest and deepest thanks to all the teachers, parents, principals and patron who contributed immensely to the research including the Muslim schools involved for granting me permission. Taking part in fieldwork and having the opportunity to engage with the participants have been an incredible learning experience.

I am also grateful to the Islamic Foundation of Ireland (IFI) and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI) for their support. There are also those who have also supported me in various ways, preferring to remain anonymous seeking the reward of the hereafter, I honour you for that and I pray that you receive what you seek.

Most importantly, I would like to thank my family for all their constant encouragement. I dedicate this book to them and particularly my dear parents who have always been there for me and the decisions I have ←ix | x→made in my life. I would like to especially thank my very patient wife for her continuous sacrifice, love and emotional support. I dedicate this work to all of you. And especially to my beautiful children whose daily doses of smiles, kisses, and hugs made the journey so much easier!

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Research Context

Debate about the teaching of religions in public education, both in Europe and worldwide, has increased in the twenty-first century. Rationale for religious education has been discussed at European level among religious and non-religious experts. Interest in religious education, since the beginning of the twenty-first century, emerged as a result of global attention given to religion as a result of the shocking events of 11 September 2001 in New York, 7 July 2005 in London and associated incidents that affected many people in different parts of the world (Jackson, 2012). In light of the increasing numbers of Muslims living in Europe and the increase in cultural diversity in societies, the rise in Islamophobia, racism and discrimination has intensified the debate surrounding not only the presence of Muslims in Europe but also their rights to religious education and state-supported schools (Soper & Fetzer 2007; Parker-Jenkins, 2002). Academic research dedicated to the field of Islamic education has become more available, where once upon a time, the literature tended to naturally focus on Muslim majority countries. Despite the paucity of empirical research carried out on western Muslim schools (referring here to USA, Canada, Europe and Australia), demographic shifts in Europe have contributed to this increased interest in Muslim institutions, schools, and their educational issues.

The place of Muslim schools in Europe in the twenty-first century is the subject of much debate with claims that they are places of indoctrination that promote extremism and are obstacles to integration in pluralist societies. Published research on Muslim schools in Ireland is scarce and therefore they represent an under-researched phenomenon of central relevance for the faith schools debate and a motivation for this study.

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Therefore, in light of the lack of qualitative research carried out on Muslim schools in Ireland, the following research questions aim to be addressed in this book.

1. Why do Muslim parents send their children to Muslim schools in Ireland?

2. How is the Islamic ethos manifested in the schools?

3. How is Islamic religious education (IRE) formulated and articulated in the schools?

These questions are addressed through an ethnographic study of two Muslim schools in Ireland with an exploration of views of both Muslim parents and IRE teachers on Muslim schooling, ethos, and IRE. In the next section, I outline in detail the chapters of the book.


First, theoretical explorations of the various forms of RE as well as the arguments for and against its retention in contemporary Europe are outlined. After the initial examination of background debates on RE and faith-based schooling, the focus of Chapter 2 is an exploration of the historical developments and manifestations of IRE since the sixth century. This includes the educational contributions of and approaches by medieval Islamic scholars. The primary aim here is to contribute to our overall understanding of Islamic education and provide theoretical underpinning for the current debate on the legitimacy of IRE and Muslim schooling in pluralist societies.

Before examining the various definitions and purposes of and debates on Islamic religious education, Chapter 3 introduces the debates surrounding Muslim schools specifically in the UK as a way of informing the discussion. I conclude this chapter with a critical review of contemporary empirical research on IRE and Western Muslim schooling. In order ←2 | 3→to add to our understanding of how Islamic religious knowledge is formulated, this chapter concludes with a critical overview of existing research conducted on Muslim schools and IRE, specifically in Western contexts.

The first section of Chapter 4 begins by providing a contextual background to religious education in Ireland as well as a history of its Muslim schools. The second part begins the series of empirical chapters by examining the rationale of Muslim schools in the view of parents and IRE teachers and concludes with a brief theoretical overview on the definitions of ethos. Chapter 5 presents detailed empirical descriptions and analyses of the ethos of the schools, especially its various manifestations and influences.

Chapter 6 is divided into three sections dedicated to the three teaching subjects I observed. The first section discusses and analyses the role of Arabic in the schools and the views of participants on its relevance to IRE. The second section contains descriptions and analyses of Quranic teaching in the schools, including the views shared by participants on the role of memorisation and understanding in such education. The chapter concludes with an in-depth description and analysis of Islamic Studies, its content and how it was articulated by the IRE teachers, including the various roles they played in the process.

Chapter 7 concludes by drawing together the main themes of the research based on the research questions and sets out some possible implications and recommendations in the hope of being able to contribute to the debate on Muslim schools, IRE teaching and faith schooling generally.


X, 224
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (November)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. X, 224 pp., 1 fig. b/w, 2 tables.

Biographical notes

Youcef Sai (Author)

Dr Youcef Sai is a researcher and teacher in the field of Islamic Studies and Education. He has taught at both secondary and tertiary levels in Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. Since obtaining his PhD in Education in 2016, from Trinity College Dublin, he has published widely in areas related to Islamic education and contemporary issues on Muslims and Islam in western contexts.


Title: Islamic Religious Education in Ireland
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236 pages