Patriotic or anti-Muslim?
Peaceful coexistence is once again under attack.
Tomorrow, the Patrijotti Maltin are to hold a protest in Qawra to protest against the demand by the Muslim community there for a prayer building.
There is in this case a strong echo of what happened at Msida some months ago when the Muslims began to hold prayer meetings in the square in front of the church because, they said, they were refused an offer of a private venue for their prayers and, as they said, Paola Hill was too far away for them.
As a result of that potentially difficult flash point, and after the mediation of some ministers, the Muslims were offered use of L’Ospizio in Floriana. There they remain, it seems, and the potential clash at the Msida square was defused. Now, in what seems to be a copy of the Msida stand-off, the Muslims have taken to hold their prayer meetings mostly out of door. And predictably the Patrijotti will be following them there to oppose their demand for a mosque or prayer building. Again, and possibly with more reason, they refuse to be made to travel all the way to Paola.
One assumes that the Patrijotti have obtained police permission to hold the protest and one also assumes that the blatant and criminal anti-Muslim behaviour of the Msida protest
(such as ridiculing the Muslim ban on pork) will not be allowed.
The issue however will not be resolved by protest and counter-protests.
Bugibba, Qawra and St Paul’s Bay are today one of the most culturally and ethnicallymixed localities in Malta. The primary school there has the most diverse children in its classrooms in Malta, speaking so many languages and yet playing with each other and relating to each other in ways that only children seem to be capable of.
There are, of course, multiple issues involved in this protest, layers upon layers of single issues from bedrock antagonism towards migrants, tense relations between different ethnic communities, all the way to integration and assimilation. President Coleiro Preca asked to meet the different leaders of the communities. The Dominican fathers in Valletta have offered to throw open their buildings in Valletta so that the Muslims can hold their religious observances.
In these days of quite similar tense flashpoints in many other countries – from Germany to France, there is mischief in the air and the situation may degenerate, which will makes us all so much worse.
The issue has been swept under the carpet for many years with so many official refusals to do anything about it, from the number of migrants arriving in Malta, to many people who should not have been allowed to stay somehow evading and staying. Many migrants, muslim or not, are decent lawabiding people who work hard to provide for their families. As usual in any group of people, there are also some bad apples among them. The group opposing them is not much different from the extreme-Right anywhere in Europe. We are seeing how, all over Europe, such groups are growing and growing and now look poised to enter government in so many countries in Europe.
The experience of so many other countries shows us there is probably no clear way of composing the issue. Malta is, for all its faults and deficiencies, still a Christian country and its history for the past millennium or so has been in the forefront of the battle to safeguard Christian Europe. For all that, our DNA, our language, our mentality is typically Middle Eastern. The way ahead must be to ensure that any person who is in Malta shares the same fundamental attitude – though not necessarily the same faith – and values and acknowledges the primary importance of Maltese heritage.
Confrontations and/or clashes do not contribute to this, nor does sweeping the issues under a carpet.