Storm in a teacup

Our political and religious gatekeepers need to wake up and smell the coffee. It is not Muslims in Europe who need more tolerance

The not inconsiderable hoo-ha generated by what is probably our largest religious minority taking to the streets to worship their deity serves, in my opinion, to underline just how lucky we are to live in a society enjoying religious and other freedoms and how important it is that we safeguard a way of life and a set of values that those who came before us struggled to attain and in some cases even paid the ultimate price to defend.

Indeed, as we set about our daily business we should not forget how precious and fragile our freedoms are and have some consideration for the many people out there in other parts of the world near and far for whom the freedom to subscribe to a particular religious belief and worship in the manner they see fit is something they can only dream about. 

‘Aid to the Church in Need’ is a Pontifical Foundation of the Catholic Church which each year funds around 5,000 projects in over 140 countries around the world, helping to support the Church in its mission, and bringing hope and solidarity to millions of people.

In 2014 it published an extensive report on Religious Freedom in the World (RFW) which examined the extent to which nation states uphold the principle of religious freedom – as enshrined primarily in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and the impact of destabilising extremist groups within society. ( accessed on 24/01/2016). The report also included detailed country-by-country briefings.

The report looks at the persecution of ALL religions but its most notable finding is that Christianity is by far the most persecuted faith in the world. As regards the perpetrators, the rogues gallery of nations where faiths are most persecuted, the overwhelming majority are mostly Muslim states. Indeed, no fewer than 14 of the top 20 are Muslim majority nations; another two, Nigeria and Eritrea, have populations divided almost equally between Christianity and Islam, while in a third, the Central African Republic, Muslims account for just under 10% of the population but contrary to the ‘natural’ order of things it is this small minority which is persecuting the other 90%.

In these three countries Muslim fundamentalists of one affiliation or another have been wreaking havoc on Christian communities and adherents of other faiths. The remaining three countries are Burma (Myanmar), China and North Korea.

The Central African Republic, in which Christians in principle make up nearly 90 % of the population, makes an interesting case study of what a small but determined minority can do if it sets its mind to it. In September 2012, four rebel militias formed a coalition, named Séléka, which took power in March 2013 and immediately suspended the freedom of conscience, assembly, and worship enshrined in the 1994 constitution. Although not an overtly religion-based grouping Séléka is mostly made up of local Muslims, together with thousands of mercenaries from mostly-Muslim Chad and Darfur (Sudan). 

In their 24 January, 2016 article “Archbishop: ‘More needs to be done’ to defeat intolerance”, Jurgen Balzan and Miriam Dalli give considerable attention to Għaqda Patrijotti Maltin and its shenanigans, but this ‘organisation’ and its antics are in no way representative of the many in Maltese society, coming from all walks of life and with very divergent political affiliations, who have genuine concerns if not fears about the immigration into Malta of individuals whose capacity to integrate into the wider society and respect its values are at best doubtful.

I am not aware if a similar study has been conducted in Malta but a sociological study conducted by the University of Bielefeld in Germany over the course of a decade cited in the RFW country report on Germany states that “…fewer than one in five German citizens believes that Islam is compatible with German culture”. I can only speculate as to what opinion the Maltese might have on this subject.

Balzan and Dalli end their piece talking of Għaqda Patrijotti Maltin’s ‘undefined fears’ but not everyone is lucky enough to be as articulate as MaltaToday reporters at the time of spelling out what ails them. The fact of the matter is that for most people a good look around will suffice to make them question an immigration/refugee policy which allows problematic individuals into a small, face-to-face and already crowded little island.

The two reporters give us some essential data to set our mind at rest that we are not being overwhelmed with unwanted ‘visitors’ and yet Matthew Agius’s court reports in MaltaToday just this last month are awash with Husseins, Alis, Ahmeds, Mohameds and other kindred spirits up before the courts for offences ranging from drugs to fraud, via attacks with knives, robbery, bigamy, sexual assault and rape. One would think that we do not have enough homegrown villains at all levels of society to attend to our need for excitement.

Our political and religious gatekeepers need to wake up and smell the coffee. It is not Muslims in Europe who need more tolerance, indeed I would go as far as to suggest that some of these have ‘too much’ of that already and systematically abuse the freedoms which they enjoy in our societies to further their warped agendas; it is fellow Christians, Jews, followers of the Baha’i faith, Animists and others who are typically at the receiving end of systematic persecution and lack basic rights in so many Muslim societies that desperately need more tolerance.