“Deepening Understanding of Human Rights and Equality for the Muslim Communities of Ireland”

Months of meticulous planning and preparation by Nadette Foley and Louise Keating, who spearheaded the Glencree Interfaith Human Rights and Equality Project, with the support of their team colleagues, resulted in an amazing attendance of the event on Wednesday 18th April 2018.

Diverse leaders of the Islamic centres and community groups within the Muslim communities of Ireland attended a seminar on “Deepening Understanding of Human Rights and Equality for the Muslim Communities of Ireland”, which was held at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) auditorium in Dublin 7.

The participants, both senior faith leaders, management staff as well as community grass-roots leaders, engaged in the round-table discussions on how human rights and equality issues are important to their communities and what future steps are needed to further develop and build on this dialogue.

This seminar was the first step in an exploratory journey of the interfaith human rights and equality dialogue, a project for which Glencree received funding from the IHREC in 2017.

The day, however, began following a heartfelt and sincere welcome by the CEO of Glencree, Naoimh Mc Namee, who emphasised the longstanding experience of Glencree in engaging with diverse groups in a respectful and safe manner, and the keynote speech was delivered by the Chief Commissioner of IHREC, Ms Emily Logan. Ms. Logan captured the participants’ attention with her clear and open account of the work of the Commission and its independence in the pursuit of justice and equality for all in Ireland. She further encouraged communities to proactively engage and take advantage of all legislative instruments available to them, so that human rights and equality issues become firmly ingrained in all policies of statutory and voluntary organisations within the State.

Portrayal of human stories of inequality and discrimination experienced by some Muslims in Ireland was vividly demonstrated by examples of Islamophobic behaviour in Dr James Carr’s talk.  Dr Carr, a Sociology lecturer from the University of Limerick, is a well-respected researcher and writer on the experiences of the Muslim communities of Ireland. He also highlighted the importance of continuing to collect regular up to date data so that relevant policies and practices can be established.

Mr Stephen Collins, solicitor from the IHREC Legal Unit was then able to illustrate how the Commission can practically assist people who experience such violations of their basic human rights. He provided practical contexts within which the Commission operates as well as the actual steps needed to seek its support and guidance.

Although being the last speaker of the day, Sgt Dave McInerney, who heads the Garda Diversity Unit, demonstrated the practical benefits of cultural understanding and dialogue. Mutual respect, as the underlining theme, is understood to be the core principle which his department strives to promote.  Such work, did not escape notice as many community participants expressed their deep respect for his office.

Barbara Walshe, Chair of the Glencree Board, delivered the closing remarks and a summary of the day, ensuring it ended on a strong and positive note while thanking the staff of Glencree for their tireless commitment as well as Ms Fardus Sultan, a Business woman and Muslim community activist, who so professionally moderated and chaired the event and provided intercultural consultation prior to the event.

And true to Glencree’s core beliefs, a follow up event is planned for early May 2018, which will further build on this spirit of engagement and dialogue.

Author: Fardus Sultan