Welsh Muslims in 'immense fear' over Paris attacks

Tributes left near the Bataclan concert hall on 15 November 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Tributes have been left near the Bataclan concert hall in Paris

Welsh Muslims are living in "immense fear" of backlashes following the Paris terrorist attacks, according to the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Wales.

Sahar Al Faifi said she "lost count" of incidents of physical abuse she received before the attacks happened.

Islamic State (IS) militants have claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris with 129 people dead.

The first minister said the level of potential threat "remains high".

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme, Ms Al Faifi said IS wanted to create a perception of "us and them", adding: "Welsh Muslims are living in immense fear of backlashes."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSahar Al Faifi says she has 'lost count' of incidents of abuse aimed at her

Despite two Cardiff men, Reyaad Khan and Nasser Muthana travelling to Syria and appearing in a video urging people to join IS, Ms Faifi said they represent a tiny proportion of Welsh Muslims.

"The Muslim population of Britain is 4.8% or two million people and 700 have joined IS. Are they really representative of the Muslim community and faith?" she added.

"Two boys from Cardiff were not radicalised in mosques but through social media."

Ms Al Faifi also said she "lost count" of the incidents of physical abuse against her before the Paris attacks, saying: "If I reported all of them, I'd be living half of my life in the police station."

Her fears were echoed by former Neath MP and cabinet minister Peter Hain, who said: "We have to make sure we do not allow any Islam phobic targeting of Muslims in any part of Wales where Muslims form an important and valued part of the community."

Image copyright Soutyh Wales Police
Image caption The Wales Millennium Centre was lit up on Saturday evening

As a show of solidarity, public buildings around Wales are being illuminated by the colours of the tricolour this weekend.

They include:

  • Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd
  • The Senedd, Cardiff Bay
  • Inner Gate House, Caerphilly Castle, Caerphilly
  • Harlech Castle Bridge, Gwynedd
  • Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay
  • National Museum, Cardiff
Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption The Senedd illuminated with the tricolour

Speaking on the same programme, First Minister Carwyn Jones called on people in Wales to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

He said security in the country has been the same for the past few months and the level of potential threat to Wales remained high and had not increased following the Paris attacks.

With one of the incidents taking place near Paris' Stade de France as a football match took place, he said people in Wales should be "aware of the implications of hosting big events" like the recent Rugby World Cup matches that took place in Cardiff.

"In the past, these terrorists have wanted to attack big cities, to kill the most people and get the most publicity, but the threat is not only in big cities."

Despite the attacks, he said Welsh football fans should not be concerned about travelling to France for next summer's European Championships, adding: "It will go ahead. It would be a great victory for them (the terrorists) if it doesn't.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Paris is in mourning after Friday night's wave of attacks

The panic, fear and paranoia felt in Paris during the attacks was described by the manager of Merthyr Tydfil band Pretty Vicious.

They were playing in front of 300 people in the city and completed their 45-minute set, despite half the audience leaving when news started filtering through that two people had been shot.

Bryn Phillips said information was confused and they were unaware of the full extent of what was happening.


He accompanied the four band members, aged between 16 and 18, to their hotel 300 yards away from the venue, saying: "Before the gig, there were parties and a carnival atmosphere, but after, there was about a tenth of the people on the streets and it was a totally different feeling, a bit nerve wracking.

"There were sirens going off everywhere and paranoia creeps in, I was worried about people on the streets having guns."

The hotel was "locked down" with them safely inside and despite announcements that France's borders had been closed, they were able to drive through the Channel Tunnel back to the UK on Saturday morning.

After returning briefly to Merthyr Tydfil, they then travelled to Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Monmouthshire, where they are currently recording.

"It seems surreal now watching it on television," added Mr Phillips

"It is difficult to imagine we were there. It's terrible news but we are glad to be back,"

More on this story