By Chinedu Onyejelem
Discrimination against Muslims is an everyday reality in Ireland, according to new research on Islamophobia launched at a recent conference in Dublin.
Commissioned by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), the report by Dr James Carr of the University of Limerick’s Department of Sociology surveyed a cross-section of Dublin’s Muslim community – among Ireland’s 65,000 Muslims – on their experiences of discrimination, exclusion and hostility in Irish society.
“There are sections of this study which will be uncomfortable to read in terms of the experiences of hatred, discrimination and racism,” said ICI chief Brian Killoran. “It also does not shy away from difficult and complex questions which must be addressed if we want to be a society based on equality, fairness and justice.”
The majority of the 66 men and women who participated in the study highlighted “various racist slurs and epithets” and even “physical assault” against Muslims, particularly since the rise of the IS terror group.
But exclusion from local communities when it comes to schooling also stood out as a major issue.
“The exclusion of pupils because of their faith or non-faith identity has real implications not only in terms of academic performance and ability to access schools of choice but also, and arguably more importantly, on the social development of young Irish Muslim boys and girls and notions of inclusivity in Irish society,” the report states.
Alleged discrimination in policing was noted as a concern, with the report relating “a specific experience of being singled out for attention by a member of An Garda Síochána while others were ignored ... a perception among Muslim communities that gardaí will treat ‘their own’ (read as white, Irish and Catholic) better than those perceived as ‘ other’.”
However, participants in the study also related more positive experiences in the workplace and education, examples that show “a recognition of and positive engagement with diversity,” according to the report.
Recommendations for encouraging greater inclusiveness among Muslims in Ireland include training for better media engagement, support for public campaigns to make Ireland’s Muslims aware of their rights, building stronger relationships between Muslim communities and the Garda, and enacting strong legislation against hate crimes.
“This report offers hope,” added Killoran in the report’s foreword. “It is notable that many different participants referred to Ireland as home … We owe it to them, and to all who believe in the foundation of equality which formed our country, to ensure the recommendations are acted upon.”
Speakers at the conference organised to launch the report, Islamophobia in Dublin: Experiences and How to Respond, included its author Dr Carr, Scottish MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh OBE and Prof Chris Allen from the University of Birmingham’s School of Social Policy.