Welsh perspective on the Brussels attacks

Phil Parry considers the Welsh response to the recent Brussels attacks.

Wales has a long and proud history of religious rebellion. Christian non-conformity is strongly rooted here and official Anglicanism in the shape of the Church in Wales, is disestablished.

Wales also plays host to the second oldest immigrant community in Britain (after Liverpool) – the Somalis in Cardiff.

These facts give us a more powerful right than most perhaps to pronounce on the appalling events in Brussels.

One view is that the vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens because Islam is a religion of peace. Another view is that religious fundamentalism itself is the problem and Islam, as a newer religion, has not had time to evolve. Religion itself, runs this argument, is the problem, and a literal interpretation of holy texts always leads to problems.

Basic Christianity is also intolerant of women and gay people and basic Islam is intolerant too.

For most who attend Christian church services it is less about these facts and more about slightly vague notions of faith, love and tolerance, as after 2,000 years the religion has moved on from strict adherence to written texts.

Islam, which was created in the sixth century, has had less time to move on. Most, it is true, attend Mosque and it is part of their daily lives.

For a tiny minority there is more of a strict adherence to holy texts than there is with most Christians, and the intolerance can lead to terrible violence as we have seen in Brussels.

An argument is that there is something fundamental to Islam which does not exist in Christianity, where holy texts are stressed and it and can lead to intolerance and ultimately violence. One theory is that there has always been conflict between Christian people and Muslims. The crusades were a terrible part of this and what we are seeing now is the most recent version from Muslims.

The problem with this theory is that the middle east has long been a vast melting pot of people with different faiths and religions. For more than 1400 years there have been Hindus, Jews, Druze, Zoroastrians, Yazidis, Muslims as well as Christians.

I stress these are the publicised views of others, not necessarily mine.

The effect of the terror attacks in Brussels were even felt here in Wales. Extra police were sent to perceived possible targets such as transport hubs by the biggest force in Wales, South Wales Police. This was as a direct response to the attacks and not down to any specific information or intelligence.

Plaid Cymru demanded reassurances about the safety of Welsh football fans travelling to the European championship in France. Their MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Liz Saville Roberts, called on the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to do all she could to protect the fans.

Labour’s First Minister, Carwyn Jones, said how shocked he was. He said:  “I am appalled at today’s attacks in Brussels. “I would like to express my sympathy and solidarity with the Belgian people and the international community which works in the city. “The scourge of terrorism must be opposed everywhere and we must resist the threat to our way of life.

It is certainly true that this is part of a great (perhaps THE greatest) period of anti-intellectual backlash.

Whatever the underlying causes, there can be no doubting the terrible results of violent religious extremism.

35 people died in Brussels and 270 were injured.

Phil Parry is Editor of the investigative website The Eye.

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