Ministry accuses Busuttil of using Quran desecration for political mileage

Justice ministry lambasts Busuttil for taking swipe at decriminalisation of religious vilification in the wake of pitiful desecration of Quran books at Mater Dei Hospital

Slices of pork were found among the pages of several copies of the Quean at the multi-faith room of Mater Dei Hospital
Slices of pork were found among the pages of several copies of the Quean at the multi-faith room of Mater Dei Hospital

PN leader Simon Busuttil tried to turn the desecration of the Quran into ‘political football’ after he claimed that the vilification of the Islam religious text was the reason why the Opposition opposed the decriminalisation of religious vilification, the justice ministry said today.

The remarks by the justice ministry – the ministry which proposed the striking off of the 1933 law which punished the vilification of the Roman Catholic religion “and other cults tolerated by law” – come after slices of pork were found among the pages of several copies of the Quran at the multi-faith room of Mater Dei Hospital.

The discovery was made on Friday afternoon when the desecrated books were found together with a picture of French catholic priest Jacques Hamel who was murdered in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, France last Tuesday, by a terrorist who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

The pitiful act was quickly condemned by the authorities, the Maltese church and the Muslim Community in Malta.

On a similar vein, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil condemned the “act of hatred”, and in a tweet, the PN leader took a swipe at the striking off of the law punishing the vilification of religion after saying that “this is exactly why we wanted to keep religious vilification as a crime [sic].”

Taking umbrage at Busuttil’s comments, the justice ministry – of whom Owen Bonnici is minister – said Busuttil’s comments were uncalled for as the amendments sought to safeguard the freedom of expression and had not opened the doors for incitement of religious hatred.

“Every religion remains protect against hatred. While parliament removed vilification of religion from Maltese law, the government also strengthened the relevant legal provision in the Criminal Code which make it illegal to incite violence or hatred against religions by any means or form of communication,” it said.

“If a person is found guilty of insulting a religion, it is considered a serious offence, regardless of the religion which had been insulted,” it said.

Moreover, on Sunday the PN Leader said that following the amendments, the perpetrators behind the pitiful act could not be charged with a crime, and argued that the Opposition had opposed the changes to the law "for security reasons."

Shadow justice minister Jason Azzopardi – a vociferous opponent of the decriminalisation of religious vilification – told MaltaToday that in the aftermath of the amendments, no criminal steps could be taken for that vilification, even if unrest ensured.

“What happened at Mater Dei is no longer a crime and it’s useless for the authorities to say that they asked the Police to investigate. The government has authorised the vilification of religion and now let us bask in the glow of such an avant-garde law,” Azzopardi told MaltaToday.

The Nationalist opposition had been harshly opposed to the proposed amendments and had accused the government of “political atheism”, and of adopting policies of “forced secularisation”.

More in National