THE MUSLIM POPULATION in Ireland has grown from less than 4,000 in 1991 to nearly 50,000 at the end of 2011.There are now 10 mosques or cultural centres on the island, eight of those Sunni, one Shia and one Ahmadiyya and there are Islamic societies in most colleges in Ireland.The ReligionIslam is a religion founded in around 630AD and, much like Christianity, is based on the teachings of a prophet – in their case Muhammad. Most Muslims believe that Muhammad is a descendant of Adam and that he is the last and final prophet of God.Muslims believe that there is only one God and that the purpose of existence is to worship Him.They believe in the Five Pillars of Islam, five basic acts considered mandatory to be a believer. These are:Shahadah: declaring that these is one God and Muhammad is his messengerSalat: Prayer five times a dayZakat: Donating 2.5% of your savings to the needySawm: Fasting during the holy month of RamadanHajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least onceThere is no “Sabbath” day as such, with prayer being held five times a day. This practice, known as Salat is intended to focus the mind of worshippers. During prayer, worshippers face the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, which is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.These prayer times vary depending on sunrise and sunset, but last week prayer was at 4.30am, 2pm, 4pm, 10.30pm and 11.30pm.Despite not having a Sabbath, a special effort is made on Fridays to go to mosques and pray among the community.In Ireland Michael D Higgins visited the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh in 2012. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall IrelandMuch like Christianity, there are different sects of Islam. In Ireland, there are Sunni, Shia and Ahmadiyya mosques.The Imam – worship leader- of the Ahmadiyya community in Ireland is Ibrahim Noonan. He trained for years in Pakistan and the UK to become fully trained.He leads the smallest Muslim community in Ireland and the first mosque to be built in Galway. So what is the difference?“The major difference is that theologically other sects see Mohammed as the last prophet. We say yes he is the last prophet. But that just means no new religions.“We believe that a reformer could come along. We also believe that in the second advent of Jesus, it wouldn’t actually be Jesus. We believe it will be someone raised within Islam.“We believe that was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who founded Ahmadiyya.”In Ireland, Ibrahim says that the experience is generally good, but are Irish people tolerant?“I would say yes, Irish people are tolerant. If I had to put it on a scale, it would be a nine out of ten. There are occasions where hostile remarks because people see something in the media about ISIS and things like that.I don’t blame Irish people for being angry because of their misinterpretation but we don’t want to introduce Sharia Law into Ireland.“I have seen some changes in that people are afraid or somewhat suspicious of Islam and I spend a lot of my time trying to reassure the community.”The MisconceptionsBecause Islam and Islamic fundamentalism is in the news so much, there are many misconceptions about the religion, Ibrahim says.“People think Islam mistreats women, which is not true. Countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan do, but we try to show people that’s not the message of the Qu’ran.“In Saudi they do this, but that is not the teaching of the religion. You can’t blame the religion for the faults of other countries.“A lot of remarks come from women and raise these issues and we have to spend a lot of time convincing them that’s not the case.“I have seen these places. I’ve been to these places and seen how they live.”He says that Irish children who grow up in Muslim families will question these teachings more and more, leading to a more liberal iteration of the religion.“Irish kids who grow up will look at things more critically and change attitudes.“The UK has a problem with young people going off to fight and that is because they are being forced to think that you have to think these things by radical clerics.“But there is a new generation of Imams that are fighting against this.”This is the third in a series on minority religions in Ireland. If you are a member of a minority faith and would like to tell your story, email [email protected]: What is it like to be a Mormon in Ireland?