This week marked the start of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for the 1.9 billion people who follow the Islamic faith worldwide. It’s a precious time of worship and devotion for the Muslim community. And also a moment to reflect on the valuable role played by that community in making South East Wales a dynamic and outward-looking region – shaping a future that respects all religions and beliefs, as a region committed to inclusive prosperity.
Communities with a long and established history in our Region
Muslim communities have a long and proud history in our Region, with people travelling from Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and many other places to make CCR their home – becoming an integral part of the unique fabric that makes up ‘South East Wales’.
The maritime tradition of CCR’s two cities mean that Cardiff (33,600) and Newport (11,200) have the largest muslim populations in Wales – and it’s perhaps no coincidence that those cities are today viewed as two of Wales’ most dynamic and outward-looking conurbations, with a strong appetite to remain ‘relevant’ and take their place in the modern world.
That modernity is fuelled by a diversity of backgrounds, beliefs, views and perspectives – with people from all faiths and backgrounds making their mark in the public services, professions and academia of our Region – so it should be no surprise that some of today’s most prominent South Walians point to their Muslim faith as key to their success.
A faith that’s helped guide some of our most prominent figures
Welsh-speaking Jason Mohammad, one of the BBC’s top TV and Sports presenters, is Cardiff born-and-bred – and proudly acknowledges the role played by his Muslim faith in instilling the discipline and work ethic needed to climb to the top of the hyper-competitive media industry.
Receiving his honorary doctorate from Cardiff Metropolitan University, Ely born Jason’s poignant acceptance speech at the Millennium Centre in the summer of 2022 pointed to the invaluable part played by the Muslim community in his life.
And Jason is far from being alone.
Welsh-Iraqi poet Hanan Issa is the first Muslim person to be chosen as National Poet of Wales – after a childhood spent growing up in Cardiff surrounded by people speaking a variety of languages, including her Iraqi relatives who spoke Arabic and her grandparents who spoke Welsh.
Hanan’s predecessor, Ifor ap Glyn, describes Issa as a ‘fresh voice to the national conversation; and a great ambassador for a culturally diverse and outward-looking nation” – underlining the future-focused nature of inclusivity as a force for good in our Region.
From the Future Generations Act, to the Beautiful Game …
Both Jason and Hanan show that our Region can take the lead in widening opportunity for people of all communities and backgrounds – and in many respects, Wales as a whole is pioneering the way in shaping an inclusive future that’s fit for everyone.
Wales’ world-first Wellbeing of Future Generations Act enshrines tolerance and respect for all beliefs and communities – but did you know that Wales is also leading the world in faith-based sports inclusion too, with the Football Association of Wales becoming the first footballing body to sign the Muslim Athlete Charter?
That pledge is a commitment to recognise Muslim needs in football for players, staff and spectators attending games – building an environment and culture that actively supports all faiths throughout the football family in Wales, further strengthening zero tolerance towards any kind of discrimination.
There’s something particularly apt in the way inclusivity is being championed by the same multi-coloured-bucket-hatted Welsh sporting community that captured the imagination of the world through a belief in #TogetherStronger.
And that’s a belief we share wholeheartedly here at Cardiff Capital Region: actioned through initiatives such as The Employers Guide to Respecting Ramadan created by our very own Venture Skills & Talent hub (which you can download here); and by our everyday championing of inclusivity in all its various shapes and forms.
That inclusivity is key to building a shared prosperity and common CCR future for every community – and that’s why we celebrate Ramadan and all holy festivals, in a Region determined to make sure that no one gets left behind.