Muslims in Dublin have formed a new group to encourage the community to become more politically active and to ensure greater engagement with politicians.
There has been no Muslim TD in Ireland since Moosajee Bhamjee served one Dáil term before standing down in 1997. He was elected a Labour Party TD for Clare in 1992.
The new South Dublin Muslim Board has nine members, from places such as Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, Somalia, the Caucasus region, Jordan and Libya. It has been set up in anticipation of the general election and will hold its first public meeting at the Clayton Hotel in Leopardstown (formerly Bewleys Hotel) on January 15th at 7.45pm.
Among those attending will be general election candidates in the south Dublin area and it is also believed a senior Government Minister may be present. Each candidate will make a presentation after which there will be a panel discussion where they can be questioned by Muslims.
Dr Ali Selim, of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh and a member of the board, said it was also planned to hold a subsequent meeting at which they would discuss candidates who might "serve the best interests of Muslims".
He emphasised however that the board would not tell people how to vote. Setting up the South Dublin Muslim Board was “very much related to the general election”, he said. Muslims in Ireland “have become integrated” and now the issue for them was of “partnership in society, of becoming active citizens”, he said.
It was intended over time that there should be similar Muslim boards throughout Dublin and the rest of Ireland with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of political participation in the community.
Top of the list of concerns among Irish Muslims, as with the rest of the population, was jobs, he said. More broadly, he noted, there were no Muslims in Ireland’s public service, where the cultural knowledge they would bring could be of great use.
Schools were also an issue, with just two Muslim schools in the State and no Muslim secondary school. The issue of admission where Muslim children and Catholic secondary schools in south Dublin were concerned had become acute in recent years, he said. In some such schools Muslim children were seventh on the list when it came to eligibility for admission.