A happy gathering of people from Newport’s diverse minority communities demonstrated one of the city’s greatest strengths.
Last week, I repeatedly mentioned the Newport experience when trying to bridge the gap in perception between the Egyptian journalists and me. They saw the UK as hostile to muslims, out to plunder Iraq for fat contracts and
denying fundamental rights.
I told them of the Newport schools where the day starts with prayers. The christian children joining their hands together in the Christian way, the muslims cupping theirs in their traditional manner. But, crucially, they are saying the same prayers. In a fortnight I will join other city representatives to mark the inauguration of a new burial grounds for the muslim community.
Newport has a long and honourable history as a melting pot for immigration from all corners of the world. One of my favourite stories that i frequently tell immigrant children is that 160 years ago, there was nobody in Newport with the alien names of Brennan, Murphy, Flynn or Touhig. Then starving economic immigrants arrived from Ireland. Now MPs from neighbouring constituencies in South Wales are called Brennan, Murphy,Flynn and Touhig. It will not take that long before we are represented by Ahmeds, Hayats or Mohammeds.
Saturday’s event was part of the work of Community First in assisting BME groups. This is a very welcome Welsh Assembly initiative to lubricate the process of happy community building.
Once confined to the Pillgwenlly and Maindee areas of Newport, growing prosperity has seen the resettlement of ethnic minority families in every corner of the city. Neil Kinnock once said that there was only one one black family in his Islwyn valley constituency. That was the local doctor. Expanding businesses, especially among the entrepreneurial Bangla Deshis, has seen the relocation in every valley town with new restaurants and corner shops
The new mayor of Newport Allan Morris gave a rousing welcome to the new initiative. He rejoiced in the city’s happy history of a melting pot of peaceful integration and joyous diversity.