A new Muslim group has come together in Dublin with the aim of encouraging political participation among Ireland’s Muslim citizens.

In anticipation of the Irish general election in early 2016, the South Dublin Muslim Board was established to encourage the Muslim community to engage with politics, with politicians, and with the issues that affect them. Canvassing is set to begin in the New Year.

The Board stated that they would hold their first meeting in January, to be attended by general election candidates in the south Dublin area. It is believed that a senior government minister may also be present.

Each candidate will have an opportunity to make a presentation followed by questions from the audience. The Irish Times reports that employment and education will be high on the agenda for the Muslim Board.

Currently, there are two Muslim schools in the Republic of Ireland. There is no high school. In recent years, problems have also arisen with the admission of Muslim children to Catholic schools. In certain schools, Muslim children were placed seventh in terms of eligibility for admission, causing concerns for Muslim parents in finding a school for their children. The first state-funded primary school for Muslim children in Ireland was founded by the Islamic Foundation of Ireland in 1990.

Employment is also expected to be a hot topic.

Board member Dr Ali Selim from the Islamic Cultural Centre in Clonskeagh, Co. Dublin, told the Irish Times that the formation of the board and its first meeting will allow Muslims voting in South Dublin to make a decision based on which candidate will best serve Muslim interests.

Although the Board will not tell people who to vote for, he continued to say that it had been formed because of the upcoming election and that Muslims integrated into Irish society would be encouraged to play a more active role.

The Board hopes that it will lead to the creation of further Muslim boards in Dublin and throughout Ireland, encouraging Muslims to be active Irish citizens.

The group is made up of Muslims of many nationalities now living in Ireland. Members come from places such as Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, and Somalia.

To date, there has been only one Muslim TD (Member of Irish Parliament) to serve in the Irish government. Moosajee Bhamjee became the first Muslim TD in 1992, elected on behalf of the Labour Party for County Clare, traditionally a strong Fianna Fáil stronghold. Bhamjee decided not to run for election again in 1997, but returned to full time practice as a psychiatrist.

Islam remains a minority religion in Ireland, although it is the most popular non-Christian faith practiced in the country. The 2011 census revealed that 49,204 Muslims live in the Republic (1.07%), a 51 percent increase on figures from 2006. According to census figures, 30.7 percent of Muslims in the country have Irish nationality.

The South Dublin Muslim Board will hold their first meeting on January 15, 2016.

A date has not yet been set for Ireland’s general election next year, although it cannot happen any later than April 8, 2016.

H/T: Irish Times