Picture Dan Linehan

An “unapologetic Muslim”, who previously received anonymous death threats has been appointed the head of the Study of Religions Department at University College Cork.

Glaswegian Amanullah De Sondy, a senior lecturer in contemporary Islam, joined the university in 2015 having taught Islamic Studies at Ithaca College in New York, and at the University of Miami. 

“I think a lot of people will be quite surprised by this appointment,” he said. “I’m an unapologetic Muslim who has been appointed in this role at a college that has a long history of being part of the 'Godless Colleges'. I think times are changing, we’re seeing that there are many other issues that branch out from the study of religion.” 

These include race, gender, sexuality, pluralism, and accepting differences, he added.

“All of these issues are quite important today. If you just look at what is happening in the States right now, the riots and the issues on race and black-identity. You can’t really separate those issues, they have to do with many different things, including religion, and the way we understand authority.” 

There are lots of different views on religion in Ireland, he believes.

Some can be very much opposed to it, some can be for it. Religion is very much part of the fabric of Ireland, to a certain extent, which means that we should give religion in the academic study careful consideration.

"But in Ireland, given all the history that comes with religion here, I’m fully aware it's a subject that comes with a lot of tension," he added.

“A lot of people have these perceptions when they see the study of religion because we often think 'Oh, it's somebody at a pulpit, its someone who is going to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong'. But the academic study of religion is something very different. We are a department that prides itself on the critical, questioning approach to religion and that can come in a variety of ways; philosophical, anthropological, historical, societal.

"Its time for us to embrace differences, and to agree that looking at religion must be much wider than we understand it. I think UCC is way ahead of the curve in Ireland on this, to hire me and to appoint me as the head of a department - that's huge."

Last summer, news that Mr De Sondy had received anonymous death threats was widely greeted with outrage and condemned by the UCC community. 

Mr De Sondy, whose parents are from Sialkot, Pakistan, was congratulated by the Embassy of Pakistan, Dublin, which said it is a proud day. “More power to you. Onwards and upwards.”

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