Ireland’s education system is effectively segregationist because of its “hugely problematic” enrolment policy, a report to be presented at a conference in Dublin today will show.
The study on Islamophobia in the city also shows evidence of racism by teachers towards their pupils, of institutional racism within An Garda Síochána and it criticises the media portrayal of Islam.
Author of the report Dr James Carr also highlights the Department of Education policy "not to have a policy" on school uniforms and says that because of it "teachers might feel more legitimised" in displaying racist behaviour towards students.
Incidents of assaults on Muslims and attacks on mosques are also reported in the study. Dr Carr, a sociologist at the University of Limerick, highlights the need for legislation on hate crimes such as assault and criminal damage.
The 97-page research report, Islamophobia in Dublin: Experiences and How to Respond, commissioned by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, represents a "strong foundation on which future policy and laws can be made", said the council's chief executive, Brian Killoran.
Dr Carr said Ireland was “at the point now where we need to act” to avoid the segregation and racism experienced in other societies.
The study is based on a qualitative survey of 66 men and women about their experience of being Muslim in Dublin.
The author said teachers have an impact when they engage in “racist discourse” in school. The report highlights discriminatory practices and the failure to address anti-Muslim racism in the class.
In one school incident a teacher told a female student wearing a hijab or headscarf to “take that stupid thing off your head”. In another incident a boy in sixth class at the time was told to “Shut up, Allah” when he explained that his Muslim beliefs were different from what was being taught about Islam in the curriculum.
In another, the year-head teacher told a student “Sorry, can’t do anything” when she reported racist comments from other students. In one Dublin university a number of lecturers have been reported as “blatantly racist” and “Muslims actually go into lectures and record them”.
Dr Carr said the department needed to develop a policy cognizant of the constitutional right of freedom of religion.
Dr Carr also said schools were “de facto segregationist” because friends in primary level are separated at secondary level because of the religion requirements in enrolment policy. If the State is supposed to be neutral it must demonstrate this in its schools, he added.
Diversity of Irish society
The fundamental point of the research was that “there needs to be recognition of the diversity of Irish society. Irish society is more than just white and more than just Catholic. There are Travellers, Roma, black Irish, Jewish Irish, Muslim Irish.”
He said that for those involved in the study “Dublin is their home, they are Irish Muslims”. An estimated 65,000 Muslims live in Ireland, a third of them in Dublin.
He said there were some fantastic gardaí, but institutional racism within An Garda Síochána needed to be dealt with and that included proper training.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland conference takes place in the Ashling Hotel in Dublin today.