Minority communities in the North would vote for a united Ireland because they have a much better experience in the Republic, a prominent Muslim leader has suggested.
Shayk Umar said he supported a united Ireland on the basis of his personal experience and that of his community in the Republic. A survey carried out of 200 Muslims in the North found 10 were undecided on whether or not to support a united Ireland, the other 190 supported the proposition. “There was not a single no,” he said.
“Most of them have experienced the South. They have seen higher living standards and businesses are growing. It is a much more tolerant,inclusive society.
“In the 26 counties the Irish Muslim experience is one of the best, if not the best in the whole of Europe, ” he told the Ireland’s Future conference. “In the Six Counties, however, the narrative is completely different.”
As nationalism becomes stronger in the North, “regressive elements within political Unionism seek out new, vulnerable targets – women, LGBTI, Travellers, Muslims and other minority community,” Shayk Umar stated.
In January the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association (BMCA) building in the Donegall Pass area was burned down. The building was used by the Muslim community in the city as a mosque, and Islamic Centre but it was also ran as a soup kitchen and a food bank.
“They provided essential supports to the frontline workers in the health service, they provided food parcels.” he said.
The PSNI described it as a hate crime, but have made no arrests to date in relation to it.
“Such an attack would have been unthinkable in the 26 Counties and that for me is the crux of the issue,” he stated.
“Where there is such a difference experience between the lived experience of Muslim communities and other minorities in the six and 26 counties, political unionism should not be surprised when those communities reach the conclusion that despite having no historical or family connections to the constitutional question they will support a united Ireland.
“Black people, people of colour, Muslims and other non-traditional communities will decide that Partition is not working for them either. Political unionism is shooting itself in the foot here.”
Shayk Umar told the conference that there is an even split now between Unionists and Nationalists in the North, both with approximately 45 per cent of the population.
The other 10 per cent are likely to decide the outcome of any Border poll in Northern Ireland.
“A large proportion of those are new arrivals and migrants. Having seen the difference in my community in the 26 Counties and in the Six Counties, I say proudly that I believe in a united Ireland, I pray for a united Ireland and, by God, I will work to deliver a united Ireland.”
There are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 Muslims in Northern Ireland.
The population is much bigger in the Republic where the population was 63,343, according to the 2016 census.