The Muslim Council of Wales were greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Hajji Ghazanfar Ali. He died on 4th January from COVID-19. He was a well-known and much beloved business leader in Wales, running Eastern Cuisine, which catered for weddings, community events, and indeed many of the Muslim Council of Wales interfaith dinners.

He was born in Lahore, Pakistan, but moved to Britain in 1970. His time in the United Kingdom took him across the country, from Bristol, Slough, Scotland, Bridgend, and eventually settling in Cardiff. He was a devoted Muslim, and known for his generosity. He would often cater to charities either for free or at a discounted rate, many have shared stories of him cancelling the invoices of family events he catered if he discovered they were struggling to pay. He was a devout Muslim and regular mosque-goer, acting as the ameer of Abu Bakr Mosque in Grangetown.

The Muslim Council of Wales were pleased to have honoured his lifelong dedication and contribution with an award presented by the First Minister Make Drakeford in 2019.

No one would ever go hungry at an event catered by “Uncle Ali”, as he was affectionately known by many. Our prayers are with his family, and we ask Allah to grant him the highest station in paradise.


In April 2018, several Jewish representatives, including the Board of Deputies and the South Wales Jewish Representatives Council, requested an informal meeting with Saleem Kidwai OBE (Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales). At the meeting, the attendees raised several historical Facebook and Twitter posts made by Sahar al-Faifi, our then Assistant Secretary General, which they considered anti-Semitic. We indicated that this discussion would be best conducted with Sahar present, as we were confident Sahar was not anti-Semitic, and had positively engaged with many Jewish organisations and synagogues throughout working within the Muslim Council of Wales.

We next met, with Sahar, on the 12th February 2019. The meeting included Eddie Cawston (Cardiff Reform Synagogue), Sheila Gelwob (Board of Deputies), Anthony Silkoff (Board of Deputies), Rabbi Michel Rose (Cardiff Shul), and Mark Stone (then Cardiff Reform Synagogue).

At the meeting, Sahar made an unreserved apology for an anti-Semitic post made in the past and deleted. The attendees accepted the apology and thanked Sahar. Subsequent discussion focused on articles and extended Facebook posts made, and as to whether they were anti-Semitic. For example, this included items such as a comment piece Sahar wrote criticising Sajid Javid for not visiting a mosque, yet making visits to a synagogue. In general, the attendees all accepted Sahar’s intended meaning was not anti-Semitic, but there was disagreement as to whether the wording used conveyed that. The meeting concluded positively with several action points, including anti-Semitism training (as a whole, but including Sahar) and the Jewish representative to attend Islamophobia training to which they have not done yet.

Through the meetings, Sahar al-Faifi was open, willing to engage with Jewish representatives, keen to seek a positive resolution.

Her commitment to social justice is exemplary, and throughout her tenure in the Muslim Council of Wales, she campaigned and worked for equality and justice for all in society – without exception or discrimination.
Sahar’s public profile and visibility as a Muslim women active in politics and campaigning has made her a target for abuse, online and in-person. Her case also highlights the vulnerable position of Muslims in public life, who face much greater scrutiny than others.

We believe it is important for Muslims of all backgrounds to engage in political life, and become active members of political parties. One of the aims of MCW is to promote active citizenship and engage Welsh Muslims with all parties across the spectrum.

Muslim Council of Wales

Following the attack on Manchester Arena last night, Saleem Kidwai OBE, KFO, FRSA, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, has issued the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the horrific events overnight in Manchester, and my prayers are with the families and the victims of this cowardly act.  I hear that many of the victims and injured were children and young teenagers, which makes this criminal attack all the more terrible.

“We must all pay tribute to the fantastic job done by the Greater Manchester Police and the emergency services in responding to the incident, and working tirelessly to save lives and ensure the safety of all those caught up in the events.  Moreover, the public of Manchester, including taxi drivers and hoteliers, pulling together to offer transport and lodgings to people in their time of need, shows the wonderful nature of the people of this great city.

“I would urge the public to refrain from speculation, and to only share news from trustworthy sources.  Already there have been many social media hoaxes exposed regarding this incident, which will only serve to delay the investigations, and cause further confusion.  I pray that the Police will be able to swiftly identify the       perpetrator and his motives so that justice can be done.”

Notes to Editors:

The Muslim Council of Wales is Wales’ largest Muslim umbrella body, with regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.

The Muslim Council of Wales joins with civic and faith leaders across the country in standing in solidarity against the horrific murders that took place in Westminster on Wednesday 22nd March 2017.

We applaud the selflessness and bravery of the police officer who died protecting others, and our thoughts and prayers are with all those injured and killed in the attack, and their families and loved ones.

There is a long history of terrorists of all persuasions targeting government and Westminster, seeking a perverse justice of their own making. The Holy Quran is clear – “No one will bear the burden of another” (35:18). There is no justification for murder.

Two weeks ago, the Muslim Council of Wales held a conference with civic partners across Wales in order to identify ways in which to tackle all forms of violent extremism. Today, we are reminded of the importance of fighting for a more cohesive, compassionate and caring society.

On Saturday 18 March, the Muslim Council of Wales joined with Stand Up to Racism and many other organisations and citizens of Wales and marched through Cardiff as part of the United Nations’ International Day against Racism.  We reject those who seek to divide us through hate.  We stand united with our fellow British citizens in the face of these events.


Notes to editors:
1. The Muslim Council of Wales is an umbrella body representing mosques and Muslim organisations across Wales.
2. For further information call 029 2048 7667 (extension 214) or email

Muslim Council of Wales leader, Sahar al-Faifi, responds to a number of points raised in a recent WalesOnline article: –

“My name is Sahar al-Faifi. I’m the Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales. I’m also the Chair of MEND Wales, and I recently organised a dinner in Cardiff called “Wales Challenges Islamophobia”.

The event was intended to raise the profile of the increasing Islamophobia in Britain – something I unfortunately have been victim to first-hand. As a Muslim woman who wears the face veil, barely a week goes past in which I am not subject to some form of abuse on the street or on the way to work. Muslim women are often the first victim of on the street abuse, as various studies have demonstrated, and it is unsurprising that the majority of the team that put together and hosted the event were other Muslim women. We worked from the beginning of the event to delivery, and I myself chaired the event.


The team who organised the event with speaker Abu Eesa.

We were honoured to host Health Minister Mark Drakeford AM. His gesture of standing shoulder to shoulder with Muslims in combatting prejudice and bigotry was warmly welcomed by me, the Muslim Council of Wales and the other attendees of the event.

Following the event, an article was posted on Wales Online by a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate, Shazia Awan. I felt it important to clarify some of the statements made within the article, both in terms of the event I organised, and also the claims she made more generally. I do this in good will, and following an attempt to speak to her directly about the concerns she raised.

Absence of Women on the Top Tables

Speaking of the event, Shazia wrote “it didn’t seem representative to me; not a woman in sight on the top tables and championed by the Muslim Council of Wales.”

This is absolutely untrue. I chaired the event, and the top tables were full of women – I know because I made sure they were well represented and given the best seats in the house.

This lie is upsetting as it erased me, my contribution to the event, and the other women who attended. I hope Shazia apologises for this complete untruth.

As anyone who attends the Muslim Council of Wales interfaith dinners will know – our tables always are diverse, with men and women present. We recently hosted the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in a historic gathering in October 2015, and invited Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in February 2015.

It is a shame Shazia feel’s the Muslim Council of Wales is unrepresentative. We are a broad based umbrella body. Our affiliates include the majority of mosques, Muslim organisations and societies in Wales, from both Sunni and Shi’i backgrounds, and from all the different schools within Islam.

As we work with organisations, rather than individuals, it is not possible to represent everyone. But we do represent the interests and views of the majority of Muslim organisations, mosques and groups in Wales to the best of our ability.

If Shazia has any suggestions on how we can improve our structures of representation, I welcome conversation on the topic.

On Hosting Abu Eesa Niamatullah

Shazia wrote: “The speaker who made me walk out was Salafi preacher Abu Eesa Niamatullah whose 45-minute speech I listened to and who, in my view, should never have been given a public platform.”

The reason for her objection to Abu Eesa’s presence at the event was a statement he made several years ago about women in the workplace, specifically, his opinion that women should avoid working. Clearly the event in question was not one in which he was advocating that view, I myself am a geneticist and in full-time employment. As for Abu Eesa, when asked about his statement from several years ago, he clarified “it is permissible and allowed for Muslim women to work,” he said. “In Islamic law it is permissible and I retract that (earlier) statement I made completely.”

Although not stated explicitly, the article also seems to criticise Abu Eesa for being “Salafi”, described as “a fundamentalist and ultra conservative approach to Islam”. Salafi mosques, Imams and scholars have been vital partners in working with the Muslim Council of Wales (and indeed other bodies) in countering violent extremism, and advocating positive messages about engaging with wider society. I think it is unfair to imply that simply being Salafi is a problem.

Furthermore, the presence of Abu Easa at the event was made clear from the outset, his name was put in all publicity materials and it was no secret that he was to be one of the speakers at the event, I am surprised that Shazia did not know before the event, and felt the need to walk out during his talk – which was short, and completely unrelated to the issue of women working.

On MCW and extremism

Implicit in the article was the criticism that the Muslim Council of Wales do not take extremism seriously. We consider tackling violent extremism as one of our most important duties and we expend considerable energy towards this goal.

We have been active members of civil society groups such as the Cardiff Prevent Stakeholder Group, and worked with partners across all institutions to combat extremism.

We have facilitated Imams and religious scholars to tackle the theological messages of groups like Isis, through Friday sermons, leaflets, posters and online videos. We’ve also hosted courses to help develop young leaders who can counter extremist messages.

We have invested in training for Imams and Muslim scholars in Chaplaincy training, so they have the pastoral skills to reach and communicate with young Muslims as we believe youth support work is one of the vital tools to countering radicalisation.

We have developed projects also aimed at reducing the appeal of extremism, such as our prison chaplaincy project New Leaf, and our youth leadership programme, iLEAD.

In February 2016, we are hosting a conference aimed at exploring radicalisation with our national partner, the Muslim Council of Britain.

There is still much more that can be done of course, and we invite everyone to help us in carrying out this important work.

I hope this clarifies our position on a number of issues raised in Shazia’s article.”

Saleem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, issues the following statement: –

“The most recent attacks in Paris are an affront to humanity. We mourn the deaths and offer our thoughts and prayers to the families who have lost their loved ones.

The deaths in Paris follow terror attacks in Beirut and Baghdad.

This attack is being claimed by the group calling themselves ‘Islamic State’ but there is nothing Islamic about such people and their actions are evil.

Muslims globally, and here in Wales, reject the so called Islamic States’ political aspirations in Syria and Iraq, and we reject their attempt to justify their violence through religion.

The Muslim Council of Wales extends its hand of friendship to all those in France who are suffering. Paris, Beirut and Baghdad will be in our prayers.”