Book Council chief calls for Imam’s deportation

Mark Camilleri, the chairperson of the Malta Book Council calls for Imam Mohammed El Sadi’s deportation after the latter called for a law against religious vilification to be re-introduced

The Imam of the Paola mosque should be deported after he called for a law against religious vilification to be re-introduced, the chairperson of the Book Council said.

Mark Camilleri accused the Imam of “inciting violence” when he called for the criminalisation of blasphemy and the mocking of faiths, in a reaction to the fanatical murder of a French teacher who displayed the notorious Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in his class.

In a hard-hitting Facebook post, Camilleri said the Imam’s words were “putting the lives of authors and illustrators at risk” by implying that satirical depictions of Muhammed will directly lead to violence. The Facebook post included a cartoon of the Muhammed wearing a turban in the form of a bomb that had been published by Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten.

“This is the same argument rapists make about women who show their skin – ‘she asked for it’,” Camilleri said.

Let's make no mistake of this. The Imam in Malta is inciting violence and putting the lives of authors and illustrators...

Posted by Mark Camilleri on Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Samuel Paty, a French middle-school teacher, was murdered on 16 October in a Paris suburb, by an 18-year-old Muslim refugee of Chechen descent, and then beheaded.

The attacker was shot and killed by police minutes later and the motive for the murder was that Paty had, in a class on freedom of expression, shown his students Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, including one cartoon which depicted Muhammad naked.

Imam Mohammed El Sadi said in a statement that those who publish and display the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in a provocative way were “playing into the hands of Muslim extremists”. He said these people are “directly responsible for any unfortunate consequences”.

Malta abolished the vilification of religion from its laws in 2016. At the time, the move was criticised by the Imam, the Maltese archbishop and exponents of the Nationalist Party.

But with the Imam resurrecting the argument in the context of a murder, Camilleri did not take nicely to his words, insisting artists and authors were not asking for it by publishing the cartoons.

“What we are asking for is that you stop killing us, but you seem to want to impose on us conditions based on the fear and terror you are promoting by explicitly arguing that our art and writing is provocative. No, we are not asking for it Mr Imam and our State should prioritise us, writers and artists over crazy ideologues like yourself,” Camilleri wrote.