Muslims in Dublin continue to face hostility, report finds

Muslims in Dublin continue to face hostility and discrimination, according to a study.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland found that anti-Muslim hostility manifested in the workplace, in schools and in sections of the media.

Some young female Muslims reported being unable to wear the hijab in the classroom. A broader policy gap on school uniform means some face exclusion. Others do not. Teachers are failing to challenge anti-Muslim racism in some schools. One Muslim mother had to send her son to private school because the primary school would not accept a non-Catholic. In spite of equality legislation, a loophole allows schools to reject other faiths if it ‘undermines’ their ethos. This gateway to discrimination is nothing new in a country where the Catholic church runs more than 90 per cent of state schools. Non-Catholic teachers face similar discrimination.

Two students had experienced anti-Muslim abuse in the classroom. The school, however, dismissed their complaints. Some students recalled the abuse they had received from teachers. In one example, a teacher had asked a student if the hijab had limited her hearing.

The prejudice experienced by some Muslims in Dublin mirrors that in Britain. Hostility became exhausting in its day-to-day interactions. One Muslim woman compared her experiences to a ‘battle’ when she stepped out of her home. She left expecting to face hostility due to her hijab. Another woman interviewed, who wears the niqab, recalled how an elderly woman asked ‘how the **** can you see?” Men and women recalled slurs that referenced bin Laden and terrorism.

Suspicion also turned into racial profiling from security guards and shop staff.

Others spoke of the violence they had experienced. Rabia spoke of a time a drunk man attempted to assault her. As she walked down a street she heard him shout “Go back to your own country!! You muzzie!”The man had then thrown a glass bottle that shattered in front of her.

Sadia spoke of how a daughter of a friend had her hijab pulled by other children on a bus. In tears, the daughter had called her parents, asking to never wear the hijab again.

This perception gap follows a similar logic: that wearing Islamic clothing makes individuals non-Irish. And helps to frame abuse in a racialised context.

Islamic institutions and private property have experienced vandalism. A Muslim family returned home to find someone had broken in and daubed their walls with the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘get out’.

Nor did the report find a single category of perpetrator. Often abusive individuals came from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, age and genders. This suggests that Islamophobia sits at a deeper level. And this latency surfaces in relation to acts of terrorism abroad when in public spaces. One key recommendation of the report is to challenge this education gap in society.

Discrimination in the workplace came down to religious identity and name. Some in the report spoke of tensions with colleagues when it came to discussions about ISIS. Or raised stereotypical questions about repression if women wore Islamic clothing.

The report also touched on the securitisation approach to Muslims when travelling at airports.

If Islamophobia operates at a deeper and more latent level, who is to blame? Voices in the report criticised the Irish media. One central criticism focused on the insensitivity of coverage when discussing ISIS. Not all coverage proved negative; but perception can cloud all. One accusation focused on how some media ignored Muslim organisations condemned acts of terrorism. Others highlighted how it mythologised communities as drawn to violence. It presented Muslim men as ‘hyper-patriarchial’. And Muslim women proved passive and ‘lacking in intellect’.

Despite some anxieties, fears, and worries about identity. Many Muslims remain proud of their national identity, even when some are told they do not belong in Ireland.

Ireland recently saw the rise of its own Pegida chapter. Kilkenny, in southeast Ireland, had experienced its own Britain First-inspired ‘mosque invasion’. A group of individuals from anti-Islam Ireland had arrived unannounced and harassed an imam.

The report makes ten recommendations: including media training and the need for civil society groups to support Muslim communities and lobby for improved hate crime legislation. It also serves to remind others that for some Muslims, Islamophobia remains a lived experience. Ireland is home to around 65,000 Muslims.