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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Mosques shouldn’t become an ideological battleground

Respect for secular values is not an excuse to deny the local Muslim population from having regularised places of worship

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila
12 October 2016, 8:38am
A place to house prayer and worship shouldn’t become an ideological battleground. Muslims in Malta shouldn’t need to defend what is their basic right – to have a place to practise their religion
A place to house prayer and worship shouldn’t become an ideological battleground. Muslims in Malta shouldn’t need to defend what is their basic right – to have a place to practise their religion
When in January some 200 people met in an Msida square to conduct their Friday prayers, I argued, through this column, that we are living in dangerous times and whoever was behind the idea that a group of Muslim men conduct their prayers on the Msida seafront was, unintentionally, doing a disservice to the Muslim community. Recently, all hell broke loose when a handful of Muslim men conducted their prayers in an unlicensed St Paul’s Bay apartment. 

Whilst islamophobia often boils down to lack of proper education, Muslims who live in secular Europe need to respect the values of norms of living in a secular society. However, that is not an excuse to deny the local Muslim population from having regularised places of worship. Those familiar with Islam know that a Muslim’s Islamic beliefs may take various forms: Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims, Sufis, and Baha’is, Ahmadiyyas and others – not least in Malta. This means that not all Muslim men and women can conduct their prayers at the Paola Mosque.  Insisting that they do so serves only to create unnecessary tension within the local Muslim community, which has a direct impact on the rest of society. 

The government is right in encouraging Middle Eastern investors to set up shop in Malta, but then it cannot deny them and their families the right to practise their beliefs within a group or community.

The Muslim community in Malta increased rapidly over the last decade. The profile of Malta’s population changed considerably. Malta is now home to a wide spectrum of nationalities. Diversity is a reality which cannot be ignored. Recently, French President Francois Hollande called for the creation of “an Islam of France”. He argued that religion is compatible with French secularism, and that “nothing in the idea of secularism is opposed to the practice of Islam in France, as long as it complies with the law.”

Hollande’s “Islam of France” idea is that of an Islam which relies on educational, social and cultural initiatives compatible with French law and culture. Malta is no exception. As long as Malta’s laws and culture are respected, there should be no reason why people of different nationalities, cultures and creeds cannot live together in peaceful co-existence. 

The Malta Muslim Council has been for the last 15 years looking for regularised places of worship. It is high time that their requests be met. If the proposed venue in St Paul’s Bay is inadequate, due to logistical reasons, then it is incumbent on the authorities to find an appropriate place. And before the usual bloggers on the comment board sections of the online version cite Middle Eastern countries’ refusal to accommodate the needs of non-Muslims, let’s just remind them that we are living in a secular 21st century European country which, in a few weeks’ time, shall hold the Presidency of the European Union. If anything, we should emulate the practices of democratic countries not those of autocratic regimes.

A place to house prayer and worship shouldn’t become an ideological battleground. Muslims in Malta shouldn’t need to defend what is their basic right – to have a place to practise their religion. 

Teleworking

Thousands of people commute daily to their workplace to sit at a desk and work at their computers. Their tasks can be accomplished anywhere where there is an internet connection. Yet, they are made to commute daily to their workplace contributing to traffic congestions on our roads from early morning. It is beyond me that employers and their representatives cannot get themselves to address the matter through teleworking. This applies both to the private and public sector.

Failed promises

The current Labour administration is not to solely to blame for the daily traffic congestions on our road. It’s been a long time coming. Lack of planning, inadequate roads, lack of parking facilities, inefficient public transport and the influx of cars on our roads is to blame for today’s mess. However, this government was elected on the pledge, amongst others, of having a roadmap to address the traffic situation. Nearly four years later there is widespread consensus that the government failed badly on this matter. Not only is transport minister Joe Mizzi not up to the task assigned to him by the Prime Minister but it seems that Transport Malta lacks the current expertise, and common sense approach required to address Malta’s traffic nightmare. 

Tram system

Leading entrepreneur Angelo Xuereb was the first to call for a tram system in Malta. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil too thinks that a tram system would go a long way in addressing traffic congestions on our roads. Unfortunately, the government reacted by trying to ridicule Busuttil’s proposal. In the meantime, getting from one place to another continues to be a daily nightmare. The government should pull up its socks and seriously consider the prospect of a tram system in Malta. People are crying out for solutions. It is unacceptable for motorists to leave home two hours early to beat the nightmarish morning traffic.

Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV

frank_psaila
Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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