A protest by the fringe ‘Patrijotti Maltin’ group in front of the Msida church against the use of that same space by Muslims to pray on Fridays, degenerated into rowdy shouting apart from having ignited a controversy that does not seem justified.
Prior to the meeting, ham sandwiches were distributed.
This was understood to be a reference to allegations that schoolchildren at St Paul’s Bay have been told not to take ham sandwiches with them to school so as not to offend their Muslim colleagues.
Members of the Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin claimed that St Paul’s Bay primary school children who took pork sandwiches to school with them were being bullied and intimated that this issue had also been raised by the parish priest.
When contacted by The Times, St Paul’s Bay parish priest Fr Michael Attard confirmed that he had raised the issue during a sermon last week but insisted the 'patriots' had blown the matter out of proportion.
“I heard from some social workers that the incident had happened and mentioned it in passing,” he said. “I don’t know when it happened or whether it was one student or 10. They’re making a big deal out of nothing,” he said.
This rumour was flatly denied by Minister Evarist Bartolo on his Facebook page and also by the headmistress of the school, Josette Dalmas.
The Ministry for Education and Employment said in a statement it would like to clarify that there is no ban or restriction on the consumption of meat at St Paul’s Bay Primary School due to religious beliefs.
Any statements to the contrary are absolute nonsense.
The St Paul's Bay Primary School is a shining example of the diverse cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds of its pupils and how an inclusive community can be built around that.
The few members from the media on the spot focused on a man from Zurrieq who quite willingly gave them a series of comments.
However, he was soon stopped by officials from the organization who told him he was speaking on his own responsibility and not representing the organization. He was also told in no uncertain terms he was causing a lot of damage to the organization and the cause.
From this point, the meeting rather degenerated as many people approached the media and made some unfriendly comments such as that the media had willingly approached the Zurrieq man so as to put the organization in a bad light.
There was some shoving and a man was briefly held when he refused to give the police his particulars.
A woman who approached the journalists told them she comes from Marsa and they have no idea how much the people there are suffering from the migrants.
The protest was organised after Muslims met for Friday prayers at the site for the third consecutive Friday last Friday.
A Foundation which represents them said they were meeting there because they had been evicted from their previous meeting place, without proper reason.
Alex Pisani, who heads the Facebook page Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin, said that since Roman Catholicism was the religion of Malta, other religions should not be allowed to hold such public demonstrations.
“There is more than enough space at the mosque and in its grounds, where Muslims can pray,” he said.
Mr Pisani added that the Muslims also wanted more mosques “and we cannot have this”.
Mr Pisani warned that the Maltese race will be destroyed if Muslim women “continue breeding at such a fast rate”.
“Look at the Muslim women in the street, many of them have around five children,” he said.
“We have one religion in Malta, which is Roman Catholicism, and we don't want Muslims praying in public,” he said, urging people present to sign a petition against forced integration and to refrain from passing racist comments to the press.
He called on the government to follow France’s lead and ban the burqa from public spaces due to it being a “threat to security” and warned that Sliema “has become like Saudi Arabia”.
“Malta comes first and foremost,” he said, citing former prime minister Dom Mintoff’s slogan.
The organisation’s vice-president Henry Battistino criticised “liberal Marxists” who defended the right of Muslims to pray in public by drawing comparisons to Catholic feasts and processions.
“They are inverted racists who want to conceal the truth from the public,” he said. “Malta is constitutionally a Catholic country. How can we be compared to people who will threaten you if you leave the house wearing a small crucifix?
“This is a Catholic country, and they should leave if a bit of ham or a small crucifix offends them.”
George Tabone, of Gram Jewellers, who was invited to address the group, said that although Muslims had every right to pray in the open air, on a level of decency they should not if they saw they were irritating people.
He said he is “surprised that progressives defend a Muslim culture that is stuck in the Middle Ages.”
“Their culture is extremely far-right and doesn’t respect women and LGBT people,” he said. “I have nothing different races or against Maltese people marrying people or adopting children of different races. I have a problem with people who are in favour of every kind of culture, except the Maltese one.”
He dismissed the Malta Muslim Council Foundation’s recent calls on the authorities to assist it in finding a suitable venue in which to pray.
Simon Borg asked if any new mosques might have to be constructed on land outside development zones.
“The Muslims want ten new mosques, but where do they want them built – on ODZ land?
“Also, if we build ten mosques, then will we also build ten temples for Jews, Hindus and Buddhists? If we don’t, then will that not be racist against them?
“If the Muslims aren’t satisfied with the number of mosques in Malta, then they should get out of the country.”