By Mark Lynch
Two NUI Galway students died while fighting for Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, The Sunday Times has reported.
The article, which has since been picked up by various other outlets, including The Connacht Tribune, details that Mustapha al-Hayani, a graduate of NUI Galway’s medical programme, and Tariq Mohainuteen, a visiting Malaysian student, were believed to have become radicalised while in Galway. Mr Mohainuteen was at NUI Galway as part of a medical training programme for young students from Malaysia. Galway Bay FM reports that, according to family and other students, Mr Mohainuteen displayed no signs of radicalisation before travelling to Ireland and was a ‘meek’ individual.
According to several publications, Mr Hayani and Mr Mohainuteen travelled together on the same bus from Galway to Dublin Airport in September 2013. Mohainuteen travelled to Turkey, and then Syria, but was killed weeks later fighting for Islamic State against rival group Al-Nusra. The date and location of Hayani’s death is unknown, but he reportedly flew directly to Iraq, where he was also killed in fighting.
The Sunday Times article also outlines that students who raised concerns about the whereabouts of the two students were allegedly met with a ‘wall of silence’ at NUI Galway. In response, the University has told SIN, “The University does not comment on individual student affairs as a matter of practice. By way of background, there are a range of policies and supports in place for students should they have concerns about any member of the University community, including the missing student protocol and student collaboration programmes such as Seas Suas, which facilitates student to student awareness through active bystander training”.
Since the article’s release, an Imam (Muslim religious leader) by the name of Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri has told The Irish Independent that Gardaí should investigate groups that have a history of radicalised members and could still be contributing to the radicalisation of members. Shaykh Dr Umar Al-Qadri, who is chair of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council, said Gardaí should examine the groups and communities that the two students were involved in before they left Ireland. “To what extent was their involvement? Were they official position holders? And if not, were they active members? These are some of the important questions that need to be investigated by Gardaí”.
In the academic year of 2011/12, both students were on the committee of Muslim Youth Soc at NUI Galway. Mustapha Al Hayani was the society’s vice-auditor, while Muhammad Tariq Haja Mohainuteen was its liaison officer. This is the last academic year in which there are any records of Muslim Youth Soc. In the academic year of 2012/13, NUI Galway Islamic Society came into being as the only society at the University that represents the religion of Islam. The two men also held positions on the committee of NUI Galway Islamic Society for this academic year. Muhammad Tariq Haja Mohainuteen was the vice-auditor, while Mustapha Al Hayani was the events co-ordinator.
In response to the article, the society released a statement condemning all acts of terrorism and criticising misrepresentation by media. “NUIG ISOC strongly condemns all forms of terrorism, regardless of the perpetrators’ race or faith. We condemn the atrocities that have been performed by ISIS, alongside those who are affiliated with that group”. It goes on to say, “A recent article has emerged about two former NUIG students who joined ISIS in 2013. We at NUIG ISOC would like to clarify, we have no records of past students’ activities and are unsure how the newspaper was able to obtain and confirm such information. We live in a diverse society where dialogue and understanding lies at the heart of our pluralism, however, with such gross misinterpretation by the press, it causes us great concern for the safety and harmony of our wider Irish community”.