The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Most AUM students will be Muslim, Social Impact Assessment urges construction of mosque in Zonqor

Neil Camilleri Wednesday, 26 August 2015, 09:30 Last update: about 4 years ago

• SIA authors concede many respondents were politically biased

The majority of students attending the American University of Malta are expected to be Muslim, according to the authors of the Social Impact Assessment for both Marsascala and Cospicua.

In light of this, the authors, Dr Marvin Formosa and Mr Joe Gerada, suggested the inclusion of a mosque at the Marsascala campus as well as an education campaign on the issue of multiculturalism.

The American University of Malta, which is still in the process of being accredited as a tertiary education facility, says on its website that it intends to attract some 4,000 students with an annual intake capacity of 1,000 freshers who are expected to come mainly from the Middle East, Gulf Region, North Africa and Europe.” The project is being undertaken by the Sadeen Group of Jordan.

The Social Impact Assessment has also confirmed that the majority of students will be Muslim, hence the need for a new place of prayer and the multiculturalism campaign. “This SIA also recommends that since it is anticipated that most students will profess the Islamic religion the campus also includes a Mosque for prayers.”

It goes on to say that: “This SIA anticipates that the establishment of a foreign university campus in Marsascala will not result in any extensive level of dissimilarities in religious practices in the localities in question. Students who may profess the Islamic religion may attend religious services at the Muslim Mosque at Corradino which is 20 minutes away by car from Marsascala. However, it is noteworthy that two Marsascala residents did voice concern if most of the students at the University are Muslim as this may, in their opinion; result in some tension between the dominant western culture in Marsascala and students’ Muslim culture.

This SIA recommends that Government commissions an education campaign on the issue of multiculturalism as the result of different religious practices that may result as the consequence focuses on intolerance.”

The SIA does not recommend another mosque for the Cospicua Dock 1 campus, as students studying there can be “serviced with a Mosque at Corradino which is located just up the hill from Cospicua and Senglea.”

 

Politically biased respondents

The Social Impact Assessment also “targeted” a number of Marsascala stakeholders, including residents and members of the business community for their views on the project and the impact it could have on the community. The authors claimed that the residents were “generally in favour” of the project, even if some expressed concerns about positive negative impacts, namely traffic congestion and the thought of the locality turning into “another Paceville” with the opening of more bars and clubs.

The report does not go into specifics and does not mention how many people were approached. It does say, however, that it was impossible to get politically unbiased replies, seeing that the case has been highly politicized.

The authors write: “It was the a priori intention of the authors of this SIA to conduct a non-random quantitative investigation with Marsascala residents (convenience sample) that elicits either a ‘Yes’, ‘No comment’, or ‘No’ response to a statement reading ‘Are in you in favour of the possibility of the establishment of a campus operated by the University of Malta in Marsascala?’ However, due to the extensive politicisation of this issue - especially the affirmation that the American University of Malta project in Marsascala tended to be more of a real estate project than an educational one, - rendered the prospect of receiving politically unbiased replies an impossible feat. This was our experience during our fieldwork in Marsascala where most targeted potential respondents either expressed a wish not to take part in this exercise as they felt that their answers would mean an unwitting support to either the Opposition or the Government, or contributed replies in an impetuous manner.”

The authors go on to say: “The goal of this SIA was to assess the social impacts if the American University of Malta establishes a campus in Marsascala. We found our quest to meet the aim and objectives of this SIA to be more difficult than initially envisioned. The reason was that this project has been deeply politicised in recent months with the Government on one side supporting the project and the Opposition Party and a coalition of non-governmental organisations strongly opposing this undertaking. Undoubtedly, the fact that some 3,000 persons gathered in Valletta on 20 June to take part in protest organised by the Front Harsien ODZ and that the Nationalist Party also organised an activity at Zonqor to protest against plans to develop an American University of Malta on this site functioned to render residents in Marsascala somewhat uneasy to take part in research interviews and to claim their stand even if they were promised complete and unreserved anonymity.

 Nevertheless, this SIA found stakeholders in Marsascala were generally in favour to the possibility that a foreign university - the American University of Malta - establishes a campus in Zonqor, although references to a range of concerns if the project is given the green light were also made.”

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