“You’re all dirty,” re­marks demon­stra­tor dur­ing protest against Bugibba prayer room

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Ju­lian Bon­nici

Yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, mem­bers of the Movi­ment Pa­tri­jotti

Maltin held a protest march which started from Qawra Parish Church to the streets of Buġibba against what they are claim­ing is the build­ing of “il­le­gal mosque.” The group claimed that it was backed up by more than 20,000 peo­ple, in spite of the fact that around 100 demon­stra­tors showed up for the protest.

The leader of the ‘Pa­tri­ots’, Henry Bat­tistino, said that the group “would like to show his sol­i­dar­ity with the peo­ple of Buġibba and Malta.”

The protest oc­curred af­ter the Malta Mus­lim Coun­cil sub­mit­ted a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion to con­vert a room in Buġibba into a prayer room. This was re­jected by the St Paul’s Bay Lo­cal Coun­cil.

The protest, how­ever, quickly de­scended into a con­ver­sa­tion on the “in­va­sion of Is­lam,” with leader Henry Bat­tistino call­ing for a national reg­istry specif­i­cally tar­geted to­wards the Mus­lim com­mu­nity in Malta. He also re­marked that smaller prayer rooms are a breed­ing ground for ex­trem­ism. He then com­pared the Mus­lim com­mu­nity to rab­bits who pro­duce six or seven chil­dren with the sole in­ten­tion of tak­ing over the is­land.

Mr Bat­tistino blamed “Mal­tese traitors who al­lowed them into Malta.” He placed par­tic­u­lar crit­i­cism on the es­tab­lish­ment, choos­ing to fo­cus on jour­nal­ists, who he claimed did not have the na­tion’s in­ter­est at heart and in­stead chose to ““force [in­te­gra­tion] down everyone’s throats.”

Demon­stra­tors also chanted “Malta is ours only” and “Malta for Mal­tese and not for for­eign­ers” to­wards fam­i­lies who were on the bal­conies above the protest.

Mr Flo­rian, a speaker at the protest, also crit­i­cised the de­ci­sion of St Al­bert the Great College in Val­letta to of­fer its fa­cil­i­ties to Mus­lim wor­ship­pers. He claimed that should the Mus­lim com­mu­nity come to ac­knowl­edge this place as a point of wor­ship, they would then claim it as their own and never leave.

The group also rec­om­mended de­mol­ish­ing the mosque in Paola and re­plac­ing with a new mosque built in Ta’ Qali, to al­low eas­ier con­ve­nience to the Mus­lim com­mu­nity. The demon­stra­tion was met by three counter pro­test­ers who ob­jected to the mes­sage of the ‘pa­tri­ots’. They held plac­ards which read “love is the an­swer”. The counter pro­test­ers were met with hos­til­ity and had their na­tion­al­ity called into ques­tion by a num­ber of demon­stra­tors. A counter pro­tester re­marked that “I am a pa­triot too,” in­sist­ing that the protest was

based purely on is­lam­o­pho­bia.

Af­ter the demon­stra­tion, Mus­lim res­i­dents of the area said that the group placed its fo­cus squarely on the Mus­lim com­mu­nity rather than on for­eign­ers as a whole.

A Moroc­can woman, who is a mother to Mal­tese chil­dren was pushed to­wards us by a group of demon­stra­tors, echoed these sen­ti­ments, while adding that she “did not feel safe let­ting [her] daugh­ter run around.” The woman, who does not drive, said that her prayers were re­stricted to her home since the jour­ney to Poala would be too time con­sum­ing and dif­fi­cult to at­tend with her chil­dren.

Another man, who has lived in Malta for nu­mer­ous years, said that he is also a tax­payer and con­trib­u­tor to Mal­tese so­ci­ety. He re­marked that the group seemed to be in­tent on mak­ing Malta regress in­stead of pro­gress­ing to an in­clu­sive fu­ture based on peace and love.

The man was in­sulted by a cou­ple of demon­stra­tors who said that the Mus­lim com­mu­nity “were dirty” and they were di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the lit­ter in the street.

A Mal­tese man who prac­tises Is­lam and also re­sides on the street con­demned the com­ments by the demon­stra­tors and also in­sisted that the group’s pri­mary fo­cus is the Mus­lim com­mu­nity.

Pho­to­graph: James Bianchi

Three counter-pro­test­ers ob­ject­ing to the ‘pa­tri­ots’’ mes­sage

‘Pa­tri­jotti’ protest­ing Buġibba prayer room

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