The square opposite the Msida church will be empty on Friday afternoon as the Muslim community will be gathering for Friday prayers elsewhere, The Malta Independent has learnt.
Malta Muslim Community spokesman Bader Zeina said the development came after the government "showed signs of goodwill and cooperation" to find a solution to the issue and indicated another site where prayers could be held.
The afternoon open-air prayers in Msida over the past couple of weeks have led to controversy and a protest by the Ghaqda Patrijotti Maltin was held in the same area on Sunday. The main point of contention for some is the close proximity to the village church although some oppose the practice of outdoor Muslim prayers outright.
Mr Zeina says Muslims living in the Msida and northern areas had no other choice but to pray out in the open after two properties which were being used as prayer rooms were evicted by MEPA. But he insists that the council did not choose the Msida site to provoke a reaction or to pressure the government into finding an alternative site.
“We need to find a permanent and, most importantly, legal solution to this issue. The issue here should not be whether we pray outdoors but finding a lasting and legal solution. Things will return to normal if a solution is found.”
He insisted that Msida was chosen because of its accessibility by public transport, easy parking and the adequate space.
But the Muslim community will be praying elsewhere tomorrow. “The government has found us an alternative site which is equally accessible. We have decided to move not as a reaction to recent events or as a sign of protest but rather as a sign of goodwill, cooperation and respect towards the ministers who have indicated that they are willing to help find a solution that pleases everyone. The council has acknowledged the situation and accepted the government’s proposal.”
In a statement the government said an agreement had been reached with the Muslim community and prayers will be held, for the time being, in the open area outside the Ospizio in Floriana. It said that talks are ongoing to find a longer term solution.
The agreement was reached during a meeting attended by Ministers Helena Dalli, Evarist Bartolo and Owen Bonnici.
A full interview with Bader Zeina will be published on Monday.