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Shaykh Daoud’s Blog

Pwy Ydyn Ni, Y Moslemoedd yng Ngymru?

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I originally wrote this for, and posted it on, the Facebook group “Muslims in Wales and friends”:

Pardon my pitiful attempt at Welsh, but I thought that starting a discussion thread about just who we see ourselves as, these Muslims of/in Wales, should begin from there, with yr hen iaith.

My problem with it is that, although I was born and spent the first few years of my life in and around Swansea, the only Welsh I really remember is from the rather pathetic attempts to teach me (and others) at Bishop Gore’s School. My non-English language (actually my first language) is Gaelic; but that’s another story.

When I was small (and even later after I’d left the Regular Army – then a Muslim) about the only Muslims in Wales were the Welsh-Yemenis and Welsh-Somalis in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, latterly gathered around the suhba of Shaykh Saleh. They had had no problem with intermarrying with Welsh women and becoming a truly Welsh Muslim community. So where do things stand now? Was this emerging Welsh Muslim community brushed aside, just like the emerging communities of Muslims elsewhere in the UK, to ‘start again from scratch’?

It’s not right to import the political and cultural problems of the sub-continent into the UK in general and, in this case, Wales in particular, especially when there were existing host Muslim communities.

When the Muslims went to South-East Asia and East Africa, for examples, they intermarried and integrated and in the process “islamised” the native cultures, but didn’t transplant cultural things from “back home”: nor import spouses and imams from ‘back home’ either. Thus, we have the distinctive Malay-Indonesian-Phillipino-Thai-Cambodian-Vietnamese autochthonous culture of mainland and island South-East Asia.

Now, of course, these things don’t happen overnight – this is a generational process. So, we have an opportunity to nudge the development of this Welsh Muslim Community in the direction of being a truly Welsh, Muslim, community.

And this means embracing the resurgence of the language, along with all the other proud Welshmen and women (or rather Cymry and Cymraesau) so that we have Muslim Cymreigiwyr.

And, of course, playing rugby and supporting the WRFU (and Ospreys, which amounts to the same thing).

In regard to the language and culture, Welsh Muslims could take a leaf from the ‘Save Gaelic’ movement. One of the leading lights was Ali Abbasi, yarhamahu-Llah, who settled in Scotland from Pakistan in the 1950s and who died in 2004. He lived in Glasgow and worked as a motoring correspondent on the Radio, and learnt Gaelic because he felt that it was an essential part of Scottish culture and becoming a Scot (Muslims in Scotland are Muslim Scots to an extent that leaves the rest of the kingdom standing). He also took parts in just about every Gaelic-language sitcom, and TV show.

This Thread is intentionally rambling, because it’s not really about me. I may be the seniormost (or, in other words, oldest) Welsh (after a fashion) Muslim convert, but I live in London. I come down to Wales maybe four or five times a year to visit relatives and tend to the family graves. My family home (The Rhyddings in Brynmill) got taken over by the Council at the tail-end of WW2 as “bomb-damaged property” (it wasn’t really: all the windows had been blown out, but that was about all) and turned into “social housing”, and the stables and coaching block became a pub (quite a successful one it seems from the outside), so I have no real roots left in Swansea and Gower other than history and sentiment. But I think it does give me the moral right to participate in things as a “Welsh Muslim”.

On my last visit to Swansea, I noticed that the Al-Khoei Foundation have turned an old church (by Joe’s Ice Cream Parlour) into a Shiah Centre.

So what happened to the scheme to turn St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in George Street into a mosque and Muslim cultural centre? That was the church I used to attend as a boy, and where my grandfather was an Elder and my greatuncle the Session Clerk and the old codgers of the congregation used to talk to me in Gaelic. Sentiment and history again. I would have liked to pray there as a mosque having prayed there as a Scots Presbyterian.

© D Rosser-Owen 2009

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Written by Daoud Rosser-Owen

May 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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