V18 disassociates itself from Azzopardi anti-Islamic rant

Valletta 2018 Artistic Director Mario Philip Azzopardi defends his ‘call to cultural arms’ while stressing that he’s always supported diversity.

Mario Philip Azzopardi will be taking on the role of V18 Artistic Director in January 2015
Mario Philip Azzopardi will be taking on the role of V18 Artistic Director in January 2015

The Valletta 2018 Foundation has “disassociated” itself from an anti-Islamic social media rant by its newly inaugurated Artistic Director Mario Philip Azzopardi. Culture Minister Owen Bonnici also condemned Azzopardi’s language after it was brought to his attention at a press conference earlier this week.

In the Facebook rant, Azzopardi lashed out against Sharia law, claiming that all Muslims by proxy follow the same law and that it is only those who refuse it that deserve to ‘join our club’. Azzopardi went on to say that he would make sure that any ‘idiot’ who follows Sharia law should not attain any political power, ‘at the risk of using violence against him’.

While both Azzopardi and the Foundation were quick to emphasise that the comment was not an attack on cultural diversity, Azzopardi stood by his remarks in a follow-up comment to the Times of Malta, stressing that he found Sharia law to be something “extremely negative” and in response to the question of whether he was putting all Muslims in the same category, he claimed his views were in line with that of the EU.

However neither the Foundation nor the Ministry believe that this incident deems Azzopardi unfit to continue in his role as Valletta 2018 Artistic Director, pointing out that the Facebook status update in question appeared before Azzopardi’s V18 appointment was announced.

In comments to the media, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici said that while the comments were “unwarranted”, he was inconclusive as to whether this should affect his incoming post as V18 Artistic Director, pending a closer look into the matter.

“If he has written things which fall within the right of freedom of expression and are in line with the government’s principles of cultural tolerance then that’s one thing, if not then of course we will have to look into this matter,” Bonnici told a press conference on Thursday.

Azzopardi will officially be taking on the role of V18 Artistic Director in January 2015.

In a statement, the Valletta 2018 Foundation claimed that Azzopardi’s “personal views” were aired online “long before he had any connection with the Foundation” and that they should be are meant to be seen as referring to “extreme factions of Islam, such as IS”.

In a statement, Azzopardi said he is sorry that any of his comments are taken as slights against cultural diversity and stressed that he has participated in projects in the past that not only involved people from various cultures, but that also sought to celebrate the idea of cultural diversity in all its forms.

 ‘Islam is a theocracy. Islam is Sharia law. Sharia law is the biggest collection of anti human rights laws under one religious cap: Islam,’ Azzopardi wrote last August.

‘Ask any Muslim if he believes in Sharia law. If he says no then he is not a Muslim and can join our club, with full perks, rights and liberties. If one says he believes in Sharia law then there is where our conversation ends with me making sure that the idiot does not attain any political power whatsoever, at the risk of using violence against him. The same thing I would do to a Nazi, klux klux klan member and slave trader.

‘These individuals have reneged on the values we cherish because their intent is to use our system to destroy it. What' so difficult to get about this. When are we going to wake up. This is a call to cultural arms’.

Speaking to MaltaToday last June, Valletta 2018 Chairman Jason Micallef stressed that combating racial prejudice is one of the Foundation’s key aims.

“I think bringing people together has been one of the Foundation’s greater successes. Diversity and tolerance are important aspects of what Valletta 2018 is about.”