Five men have been arrested after a Facebook site was set up declaring “all Muslims should be thrown out of Wales”.
Around 150 people joined the group on the social networking site claiming they would march through the Rhondda Valleys to make their feelings known. The proposed march has been described as “mindless bigotry” by racial equality groups. But South Wales Police have now stepped in and arrested five men for religiously aggravated public order offences.
It is one of the first occasions people have been arrested over comments posted on Facebook. The group has also been removed from the site.
Police now believe the march will not go ahead, but they will be on standby in case anyone turns up. Members of the group, which was entitled Rhondda March, said they would walk from Treherbert down to Pontypridd on February 28. And the organisers declared: “We Dont Want Musslims in our country move them out they are takeing over.”
The site said the march was planned to start in Treherbert at 10am. The group’s message board was inundated with comments including “ai im in, gona put sum nails in a stick 4 the f******” and “Got my steel toe caps ready, wot a craking idea”. Another reads: “send the f****** bk. Join us u now u want 2 stand up tall”. A further message said: “Move these musslims back home”. And another read: “yeah support our local buissnes not forgin ones. Im in”.
But the comments were labelled pathetic and ignorant by equality campaigners who are demanding that the march doesn’t go ahead. Ian Titherington, secretary for anti- racist group Searchlight Cymru, said: “All this will do is cause trouble and give a bad name to the people of the Rhondda. The people in the group are just mindless bigots and it’s something the Rhondda could do without. Most of these people probably haven’t even met a Muslim.
“There aren’t many Muslims in the Rhondda but those who live there are very popular and work very hard doing hours that others won’t. And they are as Welsh as anybody else. You’ll probably find these people who have signed up going into a shop run by a Muslim and buying a pint of milk tomorrow. At the end of the day, these people are attacking their own community. It’s sad, pathetic and pointless. If this march goes ahead it will be very disappointing, the police have to make sure it doesn’t.”
Naz Malik, chief executive of AWEMA, the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association, added: “These people are just simply plain wrong and ignorant because they don’t know or understand Islam. They don’t understand that the majority of Muslims in this country are peaceful, law-abiding people who are fully integrated in British culture. If they took the time to learn about their culture they would realise there’s nothing to fear. But what they are doing is spreading the word of hate. They are just a bunch of misguided people.”
Former MP Ron Davies, who is now director for the Valleys Regional Equality Council (Valrec), is confident the march won’t go ahead. But he added that if it did, the reputation of others in the Rhondda would be tarnished
Mr Davies said: “There are one or two groups in the Rhondda which are extreme right wing, but I don’t think what has been proposed here has any serious basis. In this case, my own view is that this group of individuals are trying to talk up their own self-importance by proving they have the capacity to arrange a march. If it went ahead it would cause great effects to the people in the Rhondda who understand modern day society. But I don’t think the threat can be treated as a serious one.”
Police arrested the men, aged 27, 30, 31, 32, and 36, on Thursday. The 31-year-old was also arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs with intent to supply. The men are all from the Pentre, Ton Pentre and Gelli area of the Rhondda. They have been bailed pending further inquiries.
A spokeswoman for South Wales Police said: “The public order offences relate to comments posted on the internet. An investigation is ongoing; however it appears that the views expressed on a social networking site at the centre of this enquiry have been made by a very small number of people and do not reflect the true community spirit and cohesion in the Rhondda Valley.”