Michael Peter Noonan (Imam Ibrahim), son of Dennis and the late Irene Noonan, is originally from Kingsmeadow on the Cork Road.
He is Imam of the Masjid Maryam (Mosque of Mary) in Galway and is one of the most outspoken Islamic leaders in Ireland in relation to condemning attacks and pressurising other Irish Imams to take action.
Speaking to The Munster Express in light of the recent UK terror attacks, he says he fears that certain people living in Waterford may hold radical views and believes that radicalisation is “germinating” in the city.
He says he has had debates with many people from Waterford, including some who hold what he describes as radical views.
Imam Ibrahim also highlighted a recent worrying incident in London which shocked him.
Around six weeks ago, while in the British capital, he visited Hyde Park to participate in public debates.
While there, he came across a man who said he was from Waterford.
Imam Ibrahim had concerns over the group with which the man was associating with and said he feared that the man may have been radicalised.
“I am not suggesting he was an extremist, but the crowd he was with looked like hard core radicals which can lead to extremism,” he said.
“I pulled him away from the group and sat down with him. I told him he really needed to move away from those people.”
Imam Ibrahim says the incident confirms the unfortunate reality that radicalisation is “germinating” in Waterford, as well as other Irish cities.
One of the perpetrators of the London terror attack, Rachid Redouane, lived for a time in Dublin which has prompted many questions in relation to Irish security and the country’s ability to identify extremism and respond to a terror attack.
Waterford and the South-East have also been under the international spotlight in relation to terrorism in recent times.
Last week, a man was arrested in Wexford in connection with the London terror attack and was later released without charge.
In 2010, the story of American-born Colleen LaRose (known as ‘Jihad Jane’) attracted international attention.
She had visited Waterford to plot a failed al Qaeda terror attack to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks who had depicted the head of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad on a dog.
She lived in a flat in Waterford in early 2010 and had befriended Jamie Paulin-Ramirez and Ali Charaf Damache, who also lived in Waterford.
The case made international headlines when suspicions surrounding a terrorist cell in Waterford were investigated by authorities.
Meanwhile, Imam Ibrahim said he was “distraught” to hear of the recent high profile arrest in relation to terrorism funding in Waterford.
“I was distraught to hear that was happening in my home town,” he said.
He has maintained for a long number of years that radicalisation is a very real problem in Ireland.
He lived in London for 20 years and says he saw the spread of extremism in the city, including that delivered by hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
When he returned to Ireland in 2003, he saw some of Choudary’s leaflets in a Dublin flat.
“Since then I have been warning the Government,” he said, adding that he met with politicians on many occasions.
He agrees that Ireland has a reputation as a “safe haven” and an easy access point, a point which Imam Umar Al Qadri of the Islamic Cultural Centre echoed in an interview with Dermot Keyes (see ‘KeyesSide’ on News 18).
“These people don’t have anything against Ireland,” he said.
“But they know that Ireland is not ‘on the radar’ so they can use Ireland as a stepping stone.”
He highlighted the importance of intervention if there are suspicions that radicalisation is taking place.
“We have to intervene if we see radicalisation,” he said.
“Imams have got to stop closing their eyes and must be honest to themselves.”
Imam Ibrahim still visits Waterford regularly, and is due to visit again this week.
He is planning events in Waterford in the coming months aimed at highlighting the true meaning of Islam and hopes to give talks and stage exhibitions to highlight that Islam is “a religion of peace”.
He is part of the Ahmadiyya strand of the Islam and has served as a Missionary and Imam in Iceland, the UK, and Ireland, and has worked on projects in various different countries worldwide.
He has also served as the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth organisation of UK & Ireland.
Imam Ibrahim featured prominently in national media last week when his mosque was subjected to a rock attack in the wake of the latest London terror attack.