Jane Hutt AM, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip
The horrific terror attacks on two mosques in New Zealand on Friday 15 March sent shockwaves around the world.
On Friday 15 The First Minister visited the Clare Road Mosque in Cardiff to stand in solidarity with Welsh Muslims in the face of the abhorrent terrorist attack in Christchurch and went on to the “We Stand with Christchurch” vigil at the Temple of Peace, organised by the Muslim Council for Wales and Citizens Wales.
The Welsh Government utterly condemns the vile hatred expressed by a tiny minority of extremists. Islamophobia and divisive rhetoric is not tolerated in our country and we continue to do everything in our power to eradicate Islamophobia from our communities. The Welsh Government stands firmly alongside all those who are the victims of threats or abuse at any time, and in constant opposition to all those who seek to spread division. Here in Wales, we will never be defined by those who hate. We are united in our determination to promote peace and are committed to promoting shared values and understanding across communities across Wales.
As with the other forces across the UK, the police in Wales acted swiftly following the attacks, stepping up reassurance patrols around mosques; increasing engagement with communities of all faiths and giving advice on how people can protect themselves and places. The Welsh police forces have not reported any immediate threats towards our Muslim communities. However, places of worship can utilise the online training package ‘ACT Awareness eLearning’ for advice on Protective Security and how to react should the worst happen. It can be found at gov.uk/government/news/act-awareness-elearning.
Regarding far right extremism, we know there is no room for complacency. We will continue to work with the Commission for Countering Extremism and other partners through our established structures to better understand and address the risks. If anyone has concerns about someone becoming radicalized, they can get advice and support through the PREVENT programme at ltai.info.
To provide as much reassurance as possible to our communities, we are working hard with our partners to protect and support victims of religiously-motivated hate crime and to hold perpetrators to account. Working with the four police forces and the Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board Cymru, we have robust systems and legislation in place to investigate hate crimes, support victims and punish perpetrators. The Welsh Government and the Police take all reports of Islamophobia and hate crime extremely seriously.
We are expanding our Regional Community Cohesion Programme. This works at a national and regional level to identify and mitigate community tensions. We are investing £2.24m (2019-20 to 2020-21) including £1.52 m from the EU Transition Fund.
We will provide at least £625k this year to the National Hate Crime Report and Support Centre – run by Victim Support Cymru. This provides support and advocacy to victims of hate crime.
Through the Wales Faith Communities Forum, we work closely with faith representatives on matters affecting the social, economic and cultural life of Wales. There is a strong understanding of shared values, working towards the well-being of Wales. We continue to work closely with faith leaders during the Brexit period to discuss what we can do together to strengthen positive messages of cohesion, respect and understanding.
Through our Equality and Inclusion Communications Network, we work with over 30 partners across Wales to promote positive messages of respect and inclusion, celebrating diversity. Members include Local Authorities, the four police forces and third sector organisations. We regularly celebrate diversity in our country, for example during International Women’s Day, Refugee Week and Black History Month, UN Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. These occasions provide us with opportunities to share and spread our value of inclusivity.
We will show no complacency and do everything in our power to prevent far-right extremists becoming active in Wales. However, we must also never forget that Wales is a warm and welcoming community, with a strong sense of belonging and cohesion that will never be shaken by terrorists and extremists.