Muscat tells Muslim school: ‘consider school loan as an investment by government’

A Labour government would waive the €400,000 loan to the Mariam al-Batool Mariam al Batool school, Joseph Muscat says.

Labour leader Joseph Muscat visits Muslim community at the Mosque in Paola.
Labour leader Joseph Muscat visits Muslim community at the Mosque in Paola.

A Labour government commitment to waive the €400,000 government loan to Muslim school Mariam al Batool was written black on white in its electoral manifesto, leader Joseph Muscat said today.

Speaking to members of the Muslim community at the Paola Mosque, Muscat said the pledge was included in its electoral manifesto showing that the school was in Labour's "heart and mind".

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi also made the loan-waiving pledge when he visited the community a few weeks ago.

"It would be a loss for Malta is such an exemplary school, a school for all, were to close down because of financial difficulty," Muscat said. "Consider the money you owe government as an investment which a Labour government would be making. An investment in your children."

During the Libyan crisis, the Muslim school had found itself in financial difficulty prompting government to make the loan.

Muscat said he was proud that the PL was the only party who celebrated Iftar with the Muslim community.

"I do not want to stand here making political discourse... but I want to let you know about our pledge to set up a consultative council for foreign communities in Malta to hold constant dialogues."

Capitalising on the message of unity, Muscat said Malta belonged to all and that the PL was not a confessional party but a movement open to everyone irrespective of their beliefs.

"Human beings are all the same and our citizens cannot be judged by their beliefs," he said, adding that what the PL was pledging was being said both "inside [the Mosque] and outside".

Muscat told the Muslim community that the 9 March choice should be about the individuals, their families, their children and their future.

On his part, the Imam said the Muslim community loved Malta and worked for the welfare and progress of the country.

"We receive you [Muscat] here today to emphasize that politics is a part of our religion because they both aim at attaining welfare, especially when politics is in harmony with right and justice," the Imam said.

The Imam said the presence of Muscat and the Prime Minister had served the Muslim community a fair opportunity to make a reasonable and right electoral choice.

Refuting reports suggesting that he had endorsed the Prime Minister, the Imam said that he would and will not exert any pressure on the members of his community to make them choose any particular party.

"They are clever enough to make their own right choice," he said.

Among others, the Imam requested that the government's site adjacent to the Islamic Centre is given to the school to build a secondary section; that government helps parents out with school fees; for government to issue a directive to the public and private sectors not to discriminate against Muslim women because of their dress code and to allow them to wear the Hijab while also permitting Muslim female students to wear the Hijab at school.

The Imam said the community wishes that space for prayer be allocated in post-secondary schools and multi-faith places of prayer be allocated at the airport and in hospitals.

The community also would like a future government to grant Muslims their religious holidays and allow a break of two hours to Muslim employees on Fridays enabling them to perform the Friday obligatory prayer and for children attending government schools to receive Islamic education there.