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[WATCH] ‘Patriots’ in protest against mosque, want census of nationalities and religions

Self-declared patriots’ protest against mosque in Bugibba interrupted by three young activists holding placards dismissing Islamophobia, and insisting that true patriots do not spread hate.

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
9 October 2016, 6:32pm
Some 100 demonstrators gathered to protest against an ‘illegal mosque’ • Photo: Ivan M. Consiglio
Some 100 demonstrators gathered to protest against an ‘illegal mosque’ • Photo: Ivan M. Consiglio
'Patriots' protest in Qawra against construction of new mosques. Video: Ivan M. Consiglio
Despite boasting of being backed by more than 20,000 people, the Organisation of Maltese Patriots (Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin) only managed to mobilise a mere 100 demonstrators to their protest against calls by the Muslim community for further places of worship.

During the protest, one of the organisation’s leaders Henry Battistino took a leaf out of US Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s book as he suggested that the authorities should create a national registry to document how many Muslim people are in Malta.

“How is it possible that we don’t have an exact figure on how many Muslims are in Malta? Such information should be readily available at the click of a button,” he told the cheering crowd. “The authorities should conduct a national census and knock on every single door to find out who these people are and where they’re living.”

Waving Maltese flags, the ‘patriots’ marched through the streets of Qawra, chanting that Malta “belongs to the Maltese and not to foreigners”.

Activist Erica Schembri insisted that true patriots do not incite hatred • All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
Activist Erica Schembri insisted that true patriots do not incite hatred • All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin leader Alex Pisani
Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin leader Alex Pisani
Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin President Henry Battistino
Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin President Henry Battistino
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
• All photos by Ivan M. Consiglio
They warned that Muslims are “invading” Malta at a growing rate with an ultimate intention of controlling the island, and urged the authorities not to bow to their demands for new places of worship.

“You are the true Maltese people who love their country,” Patriots’ leader Alex Pisani told the crowd through a megaphone.

He insisted that Malta is a Catholic country and that the Muslim community should therefore make do with their current mosque in Paola.

“I have nothing against Islam as a religion, but Muslims have a tendency to invade countries, impose their laws and attempt to rule them. We will not allow them to command over Malta,” he said. 

Stephen Florian, a lecturer, said that the Muslim community should tear down the Paola mosque and build a new, larger one in Ta’ Qali if they feel that their current premises aren’t large enough.

“Malta is a Catholic country, as enshrined in the Constitution, and we will oppose any politician who tries to pull the rug from our feet.”

The two-hour protest was called after the Malta Muslim Council had submitted a planning application to convert a subterranean room in Bugibba into a prayer room, a call that has been objected by the St Paul’s Bay local council.

The ‘patriots’ said they were protesting against an “illegal mosque”, referring to St Paul’s Bay mayor Graziella Galea’s observations that the community had already been using the location illegally as a place of worship.

However, the spokespersons warned of the proliferation of Muslims in Malta in general, with Battistino linking it to the rise in rent prices on the island.

Patriots’ spokesperson Norman Scicluna also dismissed an attempt by Malta Muslim Council representative Bader Zeina to “extend a hand of friendship and work together”, arguing that “Muslims can never be our friends because they consider us scum.”

“Muslims consider us to be pagans who have not yet found the truth. The only reason they have come to Malta is to try and seize power and impose Sharia law or to convert us to Islam.”

Scicluna warned of friction between Imam Mohammed el Saadi, who runs the Paola mosque, and the Malta Muslim Council, suggesting that the latter considers the imam to be too moderate.

He also mocked the Dominican Order as “fools” for deciding to temporarily open the doors of its St Albert the Great College in Valletta to the Muslim community for worship.

“Muslims consider mosques to be mosques forever, meaning in their eyes that school will now forever be mosque. They take their religion far more seriously than we do.”

Activists in counter-protest: ‘True patriots don’t incite hatred’

At one point, the protest was briefly interrupted by three young activists with placards criticising the “patriots” for inciting hatred and disunity in Malta.

“Why can’t people from all religions live in peace?” Alex Caruana asked. “This protest is nothing but a needless provocation against the Muslim community in Malta, which has never caused any problems in Malta.”

The activists vehemently rejected the organisers’ claims that their followers are “the true Maltese patriots”, arguing that they too are patriotic and that “true patriots don’t incite hated within a population”.