Several Muslim women were asked to remove their headscarves for a new type of the Irish immigration certificate, known as Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) card which is issued by the Garda (Irish police). This card includes the name, a photograph and other details of the card holder and serves as proof that the card holder is a legal resident in the Republic of Ireland.
The women approached the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), the major Sunni mosque in Ireland, located in Dublin, which has raised the issue with the police. According to Ali Selim, spokesperson of the ICCI, “the Garda representative showed understanding and acted promptly. Soon afterwards he confirmed to us that Muslim women would not be asked to remove their hijab. We are grateful for this prompt response. This is the inclusive Ireland that we are proud to be part of.”
The press office of the police referred to problems resulting from the implementation of the new system, while emphasising the police’s commitment to engage with various communities and to ensure that their particular needs are met.
Four Muslim families claim that their sons were refused admission to secondary schools run by the Catholic Church in South Dublin due to their religious background. The denominational educational system of the Republic of Ireland, in which most primary and secondary schools – though state-funded – are under the patronage of the Catholic Church, allows for discriminatory admission policies based on religion and for giving preference to pupils of a Catholic background.
While the four families did not encounter any problems in securing places for their daughters in Catholic girls’ secondary schools in the area, their recent applications on behalf their sons at boys’ secondary schools were rejected on the grounds of the limited availability of places. Two families appealed to the decisions at the Department of Education which upheld their appeals.
Furthermore, one family complained about impingements on freedom of religion as its son had to attend Catholic Religious Education classes and participate in religious services held at the school.
The spokesperson of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, Ali Selim, confirmed the rising number of complaints by Muslim parents who experience difficulties in finding places for their children in secondary schools in Dublin. Selim demands immediate action by the Department of Education which needs to provide clear guidelines on admission policies that prevent discrimination against on religious grounds: “All of us are taxpayers and preference should not be on the basis of religion or race. This is not a Muslim issue, it affects all non-Catholics.”