Ireland’s failure to gather statistics on hate crime and discrimination against Muslims amounts to institutional racism, according to a pioneering research project which will be unveiled at University College Cork on Saturday.
The failure, in particular, by the gardaí to use its Pulse electronic system to monitor crimes against ethic and religious minorities facilitates Islamophobia in Ireland, argues James Carr of University of Limerick.
He said: "The Garda Pulse system still does not capture if religion was an aggravating factor in a crime; thus, we cannot tell the extent of incidents Islamophobic behaviour from Garda recorded crime statistics."
He said this flies in the face of the National Action Plan Against Racism, which had prioritised the gathering of comprehensive date on offences tainted by racism.
Mr Carr’s paper, ‘Measuring Islamophobia’ forms part of a research project contained in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs which will be presented to the public at UCC.
He describes the phenomenon as a form of racism specific to members of Muslim communities and reinforced by stereotypical negative images of Muslims.
The research, funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of the Taoiseach, and based in the Study of Religions Department at UCC, reveals Islam has grown rapidly in Ireland over the last 20 years, with a Muslim population increase from around 4,000 in the early 1990s to estimates of 40-45,000 today.
There are about 15 million Muslims in the EU and, according to Mr Carr, studies show a new and worrying trend in racial intolerance, with members of Europe’s Islamic communities the target of prejudicial behaviour and discrimination that can take many forms, including violence.
"Negative perceptions mean that members of Muslim communities are today more vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination than before," he said, pointing out that one-third are Irish citizens while the rest represent 14 different nationalities.
Mr Carr also lamented the prevailing stereotypical view of Muslims in Ireland, despite their diversity and origin. "Despite this diversity essentialist mono-cultural perceptions of Muslims prevail. One of the legacies of the terrorist attacks in New York and London, for example, has been the interchangeable use of the terms Muslim and terrorist."
The research found that the large increase in the Muslim population has posed particular challenges to both Muslims and wider Irish society. Among the findings were the urgent need for more adequate places of worship for Ireland’s growing Muslim population; challenges in education; the working environment and the legal system.