Mary McAleese in call for Irish Muslims to be treated with respect
Former Irish President Mary McAleese has said that with Islam being the fastest growing religion in Ireland, complacency around the stereotyping of Muslims is not an option.
She was addressing civic and religious leaders, diplomats and members of the public at Waterford's Christ Church Cathedral at the weekend.
They also heard from Dr Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, the first senior Arab Muslim politician to ever make an address from a Christian pulpit in Ireland.
Speaking to the gathering, Dr McAleese, who is originally from Ardoyne in north Belfast, said: "The fastest growing religion in our country is Islam so complacency is not an option - stereotypes and stereotyping, that is not an option.
"With so many nationalities and cultures now inhabiting the island of Ireland, complacency is not an option. The future we want together is a respectful, tolerant, open culture and not a culture of proselytism where we only engage with the other if the other becomes us by converting."
Dr McAleese said the gathering in Waterford was a commitment "to come together in solidarity to challenge those who would use religion and turn it into a military force or into a political force. Religion should be a force for infusing our world with love".
She paid tribute to Dr Al Qubaisi's work to ensure that the Gulf states enter a strong relationship with the European Union, learning from one another and listening to each other.
Dr Al Qubaisi is also the first woman ever elected to an Arab parliament - the mother-of-three sits on the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates, and is the first female to serve as deputy speaker of the council.
An architect by training, she is a long-time advocate of education and the empowerment of women. In Waterford she spoke about the need for tolerance, peace and brotherhood between people of different faiths and cultures.