Amanda Morris converted to Islam when she was 25 years old. Originally from Canada she now lives outside of Cardiff, UK. She mentors young girls who recently embraced Islam. Because of her faith she has been facing so much abuse from her neighbors and she says that is forcing her to move from the area.
“She’s as white as her neighbours are, but just because she’s started wearing a headscarf she’s suddenly an object to hate… It’s like she can’t step out of her door without these people threatening her life,” said a friend of hers.
Amanda has a bubbly personality but when she speaks about the troubles that the young girls are facing, she becomes visibly defensive. These girls are going through the same experience that she went through 30 years ago, but hers was during more tolerant times.
“There’s a couple of girls who quite simply keep [their conversion] a secret from their parents because they would get thrown out of their own homes,” she said.
“You could become literally any other religion and your family would be like ‘Well, it’s your choice’. But the minute you become Muslim, it’s suddenly like ‘How could you?’.”
Public attitudes to Islam scare her.
“Here at work, I’ve had a teacher in a town outside of Cardiff that had planned a school trip to Cardiff to visit a mosque and a synagogue. Thirty per cent of the parents withdrew their children from the school visit because they didn’t want them visiting the mosque,” she said.
People in all walks of life who are Muslim in Wales tell a similar story.
The chairman of the South Wales Islamic Centre on Alice Street in Butetown, Cardiff, Mr Daoud Salama said “Our women get treated badly when they’re out if they’re covered, It’s not very nice for them. They spit at them. They call them names. They do all kinds of things. The women weren’t causing any trouble, and they come home and they’re upset but it doesn’t go any further.”
Despite the hostility towards Islam, a 2011 report by Swansea University for the think tank ‘Faith Matters’ found that thousands of mainly young white women were converting in the UK - and that the numbers had almost doubled to around 100,000 in 2010. Most are young with an average age of 28.