Butetown Islam procession revived in honour of imam Sheik Said Hasan Ismail

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An Islamic procession in one of Cardiff's most multicultural areas has been revived in honour of a Muslim cleric who died last year.

Yemeni seafarers introduced the annual march through the streets of Butetown at the turn of the last century.

Its return was dedicated to Sheikh Said Hassan Ismail, founder of South Wales Islamic Centre, who died aged 81.

The 30-minute procession started on Sunday at Alice Street, Butetown.

The procession, which took place annually for decades, was also seen as a wider Butetown community event, said Daud Salaman, the centre's chairman.

He said: "I remember taking part in this as a boy.

"The procession used to take place annually during the two Muslim festivals of Eid, and local people of Christian faith used to affectionately refer to this as "the Muslim Christmas".

"People of all backgrounds used to participate in the procession and this is part of the tolerant community spirit of Butetown that makes the area so special.

"The community here has always been diverse but still regarding itself as one community - it's an attitude to life well worth preserving."

A revived procession was planned for March this year to mark the first anniversary of the death of Sheikh Said, a spiritual leader who opened the Islamic centre in 1984.

Born to a Welsh mother, he moved to Cardiff as a boy after his father, who was born in Yemen, was killed in service during World War II.

Image caption,
Sheikh Said at the South Wales Islamic Centre

The tributes to his community work included former First Minister Rhodri Morgan who said: "His wise counsel at times of crisis has made him a truly significant figure in the shaping of modern Wales."

Alun Michael, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, described him as "a man of the community and a towering influence in Cardiff" who was "enormously respected".

Imam Sheikh Zane Abdo, who replaced him as imam at the Islamic centre, said: "The procession is a legacy from the late Sheikh Said's time that we have been keen to revive on the first year anniversary of his death.

'Historic occasion'

"He was an anchor for this community and respected by all who had the privilege to know him.

"This is to honour his memory and continue his work of bringing communities together."

Image caption,
The annual procession was dubbed 'the Muslim Christmas' by Butetown's Christian residents

The new procession coincided with a visit to Cardiff by Habib Ali, a Yemen-born scholar considered to be one of the world's 50 most influential contemporary Muslim figures, he said.

Sheikh Zane said: "This is an historic occasion for this community and we are truly fortunate to have the participation of Habib Ali, an authoritative international voice of reason, moderation and compassion.

"I can think of no-one more appropriate."