After 200 Islamophobic attacks on mostly Muslim women in Wales, Muslim leader Saleem Kidwai was invited to speak at the village hall in Tregroes, Ceredigion (Wales). Upon receiving news that a Muslim was coming to speak, some frightened members of the community alerted the police, admitting later they had never met a Muslim and were scared at the prospect of meeting one. Some attendees mentioned how what they knew about Muslim was only through what they saw on TV.
However Mr. Kidwai spoke to the attendees who became very receptive towards him straight after his peaceful speech. Some attendees expressed their will to combat their own ignorance about Islam, requesting a copy of the Quran. After his talk, no one was left in any fear or paranoia over the innocent Muslim speaker.
When we heard that a Muslim was coming to speak to us, I went to the police and reported it. We were really frightened…the only thing they knew about Islam was what IS were showing
Mr Kidwai took pride in changing misinformed views about Muslims, he said “I don’t blame them, they’re not aware. I sincerely believe prejudice comes from ignorance”
It is disheartening to see Muslim’s loyalties challenged
– Saleem Kidwai, Muslim leader
As a Muslim leader Mr. Kidwai told the media later how he had received over 200 calls in just the last two months from people who had been subjected to racial attacks. The victims were mostly women and included head-scarves being torn off, spitting in Muslim women’s faces, racist verbal attacks and swearing.
Unfortunately the Muslim community of Wales says they feel let down by the police. On most occasions nothing comes of reporting these attacks to the police so some Muslims have given up trying.
The Police and Crime Commisioner for South Wales, Alun Michael has said:
“Police officers, in fairness, can only deal with offences that are reported to them but in South Wales we work very closely with the Muslim Council for Wales and other leaders in the Muslim communities and we need to map events that occur, even if they are not reported formally for reasons that are varied and understandable.
“Offensive behaviour towards women is unacceptable whatever the community to which they belong and we will be working to share an understanding of the problem, to decide how best to provide support and to increase confidence in reporting.”
This occasion highlighted how ignorance leads to fear. The solution to prejudice lies in learning more about others. It also has raised questions about the role of the media in picking up on only negative stories of Muslims and mentioning the religion of criminals only when they are Muslim.