After controversial remarks, Maltese Imam in conciliatory meeting with Foreign Ministry official

A day after controversially calling for laws against religious vilification to be re-instated Imam Mohammed El Sadi tells Maltese government official he ‘unreservedly condemns’ the murder of a French teacher

Imam Mohammed El Sadi
Imam Mohammed El Sadi

Imam Mohammed El Sadi has reiterated his “unreserved condemnation” for the murder of a French teacher by a Muslim fundamentalist in talks with a senior government official.

The meeting was requested by the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Ministry Christopher Cutajar in a bid to “exchange views” on recent statements in the media as a reaction to the assassination of French teacher Samuel Paty.

Cutajar underlined the rapid transformation undergone by Maltese society over the last years and stressed the importance of tolerance.

“Historically, Malta has always and continues to welcome people of different faiths, cultures and traditions. It is important that this value of tolerance is respected by everyone,” Cutajar was quoted in a statement by the Foreign Ministry.

The statement said that El Sadi underlined his 40 years of work among the Muslim community in Malta where he “always advocated tolerance and peace”.

The government statement said the Imam valued the right to freedom of expression for those who have a different faith and also those who hold different opinions.

Also present for the meeting at the Paola mosque was the director of the Malta branch of the World Society of Islamic Calling Adel Ali Elfituri Bayu.

El Sadi created controversy yesterday when in a statement condemning the French teacher’s murder called for the re-instatement of laws criminalising religious vilification.

Paty was murdered in a suburb of Paris after he showed his students in a class on freedom of expression cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

But 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, a move that had been criticised at the time by the Imam, the Archbishop and exponents of the Nationalist Party.

El Sadi's rekindling of the debate in the same statement condemning the murder elicited a terse reaction by Mark Camilleri, the chairperson of Malta’s Book Council, who went as far as calling for the Imam’s deportation.

Today's meeting appears to have been a conciliatory one. The Foreign Ministry and the Malta Branch of the World Islamic Call Society jointly endorsed the Appeal for Peace signed by Pope Francis and religious leaders of the major world religions in Rome on 20 October.

The appeal urged religious leaders to “become creative artisans of peace” by fostering a “culture of dialogue”.

“In this context, they emphasised the importance of mutual respect for different cultures to enhance integration and peaceful coexistence in society,” the statement read.

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