More must be done to tackle Islamophobia in Wales amid a steep increase in religious hate crimes, the Senedd has heard.
Latest statistics show religious hate crime in England and Wales increased by 9% in 2022/23 to 9,387 offences – the highest number since records began in 2012.
At an event to mark the launch of November’s Islamophobia awareness month, the Senedd heard powerful stories about the prejudices faced by many Muslims every day.
Nelly Adam told Senedd members that she has had coffee thrown over her, been called a ‘terrorist’ and witnessed her sister’s hijab being removed.
The activist also said she has faced discrimination at school and during job interviews.
Aisha Davies, from Skewen, who recently celebrated 18 years since converting to Islam, said she has faced Islamophobia within her own family.
She was once kicked out of the house on Christmas Eve, she said, after a heated row with a family member who described her faith as an “evil religion”.
Asked what she wants people to know about Islam, she stressed that it’s a peaceful religion.
Ali Ahmed, a Labour councillor in Cathays, who has lived in Cardiff for 45 years, said he was abused on the streets of the city following the Brexit vote.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Alhadj Ali, chair of the Syrian Welsh Society, recalled how he helped a young asylum seeker who was told by classmates to “go back to your own country”.
Ali Abdi, who is lead coordinator for the National Minority Ethnic Youth Forum, told the meeting: “For our Muslim youth, Islamophobia can lead to a sense of alienation and erosion of their identity.
“It injects fear and distrust into their everyday lives, causing them to question their place in a society that should be inclusive and embracing.
“The toxic cycle of discrimination not only affects their psychological wellbeing but also obstructs their full participation in various spheres of life, hindering educational, social and professional progress.”
Islamophobia awareness month, in its 11th year, aims to highlight the positive contribution of Muslims, such as the £31 billion they add to the UK economy each year.
Mr Abdi raised the positive example set by Hanna Mohamed, a Muslim of Welsh-Somali heritage, who is a member of the Welsh Youth Parliament.
He also praised Ibby Osman, also of Welsh-Somali descent, who acts as an adviser to the Children’s Commissioner and the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales.
Sioned Williams, who sponsored the event held on Tuesday October 31, called for the devolution of powers over justice to tackle hate crime.
The Plaid Cymru MS for South Wales West said: “If we tolerate injustice against our Muslim citizens, then we tolerate injustice for all – that’s not the Wales we believe in or want.
“We must work together to forge a tolerant and just Wales for all, which values, respects and reflects positively all aspects of diversity.”