Phoney Christians applauding a phoney liberal

Muscat’s exploitation of weakness and his continuing to fan the flames of racism have exposed us as a nation of phoney Christians applauding a phoney progressive liberal and democratic socialist. Our country has been exposed as a horde of egoists

One could easily dismiss the poor show of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat last Tuesday as an attempt at Mintoffian-style brinkmanship that went awry. The idea of pushing back to Libya a number of migrants within less than 24 hours of their having landed in Malta was just a threat - to push the EU into doing something about the annual mass exodus of refugees from the Libyan coast, with a fraction of them ending up in this fair land.

A day after his failed 'attempt' to deport a group of 45 asylum seekers without giving them a chance to apply for protection, Muscat, on Wednesday, said the European Union had to take Malta's immigration burden more seriously and justified his threat by insisting that all he wanted was for Europe "to wake up and smell the coffee". He even tried to glean some kudos from the fact that Malta had observed an interim ruling of the European Court of Human Rights prohibiting the deportation of these migrants. Incidentally, contrary to what many seem to believe, this court is not an EU institution and binds all 47 member states of the Council of Europe, which are contracting parties to the European Convention of Human Rights. The latter has the status of an international treaty. That Malta had to have a ruling from the EHCR to do the right thing is nothing to be proud of.

Even if he was just bluffing, Muscat's tactics are hardly defensible. Using fellow human beings and their future as pawns in some political chess game is not on. We expect respect from others because we are human beings, but this is not a one-way right. There is also a moral obligation for all of us to respect other human beings and their dignity. This obligation was ignored and undermined by Muscat's decision to 'leave all options open' - options that included an illegal and irresponsible pushback.

I am afraid that Muscat's motives are even worse. I think his 'policy' on illegal immigrants is simply a blatant exploitation of one of the worse negative traits in the Maltese psyche - racism. The majority of Maltese people are racist when it comes to their relationship with Africans. There are historical reasons for the racism, but that is no redeeming feature.

What interests Muscat is just his popularity rating, rather than whether he is doing what is right. His apparent bullying tactics against immigration strike the 'right' chord among many Maltese, as was very evident this week. People are applauding Muscat for showing a lack of respect for human dignity. His exploitation of weakness and his continuing to fan the flames of racism have exposed us as a nation of phoney Christians applauding a phoney progressive liberal and democratic socialist. Our country has been exposed as a horde of egoists following an opportunist who uses their blatant racist feelings for populism without principles.

Positions that are inherently wrong remain inherently wrong even if the majority supports them. Lynching is inherently wrong irrespective of the size of the mob that agrees with it.

Refusing to give the chance to immigrants to ask for refugee status is inherently wrong, irrespective of how many Maltese people agree with this stance and irrespective of the increase in Muscat's popularity that it provokes.

I have long realised that for the Maltese, religion is a very superficial attribute with morals and respect for human dignity not figuring in the practice of their so-called religious beliefs. Hypocrisy is the name of the game, and this becomes so evident in episodes such as the events of last Tuesday.

Ironically, Muscat's worst moment had the support of many - all phoney Christians who think loving one's neighbour is the least important tenet of Christianity or who are still ignorant of who their neighbour is. The feeble statement issued by the bishops last Tuesday did not help matters, of course.

When a legal expert - probably of Maltese extraction - asked Jesus, 'Who is my neighbour?', Jesus related the parable of the good Samaritan. It is the story of a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, who happened to be going down the same road, crossed to the other side and ignored him. But a Samaritan took pity on him and helped him. After recounting the story, Jesus asked, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The legal expert replied, "The one who had mercy on him".

"Go and do likewise", Jesus replied.

The choice of a Samaritan as the protagonist of the story is no coincidence. Samaritans were considered a low class of people by the Jews, since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the laws. Therefore, Jews would have nothing to do with them. Tellingly, when the Samaritan helped the injured man, he did not consider the man's race or religion.

The many racists among us, who have no qualms about all kinds of foreigners 'invading our country and taking our jobs', so long as they are not black Africans, try to mask their racism by quoting their fake respect for the law and by faking patriotism. The two who ignored the good Samaritan were full of respect for the law and to Jewish traditions. Patriotism, after all, 'is the last refuge of the scoundrel', as Samuel Johnson once put it.

In the run-up to the election, Muscat sold himself as a progressive liberal heading a national movement that lured the support of people from different parts of the political spectrum (with his Malta tagħna lkoll slogan) but without in any way compromising the basic tenets of the Labour Party. He said this movement encompassed liberals and progressives, who would be respected and fulfil their dream of Malta as a modern European state with him heading the government. What Muscat did last Tuesday exposed the phoney nature of his claim. He has now, unashamedly and misguidedly, compromised his political beliefs for the sake of gaining some points in the popularity stakes. In so doing, he has unwittingly supported and abetted the obnoxious racism of the majority of the Maltese people.

I wonder what Martin Schultz and all the others in the Party of European Socialists now think of Joseph Muscat. His actions this week make him a more comfortable partner and colleague of the European right: the Austrian Freedom Party, the Greek party Golden Dawn of Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the Italian Lega Nord of Umberto Bossi and Roberto Maroni and the UK Independence Party of Nigel Farage. The populist attraction to these right-wingers has the same magnetic qualities as Joseph Muscat's silly portrayal of himself leading the Maltese by defending their homeland against the black invasion.

Muscat might have scored some populist points with the local prejudiced mob this week but, internationally, his ideological outlook is in tatters.

More in Blogs