The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

Update: 'You’re all dirty' remarks demonstrator during protest against Bugibba prayer room

Gabriel Schembri & Julian Bonnici Sunday, 9 October 2016, 16:56 Last update: about 3 years ago

Three activists show up to counter protest “islamophobic” demonstration

 

This afternoon members of the Moviment Patrijotti Maltin held a protest march which started from Qawra Parish Church to the streets of Bugibba against what they are claiming is the building of "illegal mosque". The group claimed that it was backed up by more than 20,000 people, in spite of the fact that 100 demonstrators showed up for the protest.

The leader of the 'Patriots' Henry Battistino said that the group "would like to show his solidarity with the people of Bugibba and Malta.". The protest occurred after the Malta Muslim Council  submitted a planning application to convert the room in Bugibba into a prayer room. This was rejected by the St.Paul's Bay Local Council.


The protest, however, quickly descended into a conversation about the "invasion of Islam" with leader Henry Battistino calling for a national registry specifically targeted towards the Muslim community in Malta. He also remarked that smaller prayer rooms are breeding ground for extremism. He then compared the Muslim community to rabbits who produce 6 or 7 children with the sole intention of taking over the island.

Mr.Battistino blamed "Maltese traitors who allowed them into Malta". He placed particular criticism on the establishment, choosing to focus on journalists, who he claimed did not have the nation's interest at heart and instead chose to ""force [integration] down everyone's throats".

Demonstrators also chanted "Malta Is Ours Only" and "Malta for Maltese and not for foreigners" towards families who were on the balconies above the protest.


Mr.Florian, a speaker at the protest, also criticised the decision of St Albert the Great College in Valletta to offer its facilities to Muslim worshippers. He claimed that should the Muslim community would come to acknowledge this place as a point of worship and they would then claim it as their own and never leave.

The group also recommended demolishing the mosque in Paola and replacing with a new mosque built in Ta'Qali, to allow easier convenience to the Muslim community.

The demonstration was met by three counter protesters who objected to the message of the 'patriots'. They held placards which read "love is the answer". The counter protesters were met with hostility and had their nationality called into question by a number of demonstrators. A counter protester remarked that "I am a patriot too" insisting that the protest was based purely on islamophobia.

After the demonstration, Muslim residents of the area said that the group places its focus squarely on the Muslim community instead of foreigners as whole. A Moroccan woman, who is a mother to Maltese children was pushed towards us by a group of demonstrators, echoed these sentiments, whilst also saying that she "did not feel safe letting [her] daughter run around."  The woman who does not drive said that her prayers were restricted to her home since the journey to Poala would be too time consuming and difficult to attend with her children.  

Another man, who has lived in Malta numerous years, said that as taxpayer and contributor to Maltese society. He also remarked that the group seemed to be intent on making Malta regress instead of progressing to an inclusive future based on peace and love.

The man was insulted by a couple of demonstrators who said that the Muslim community "were dirty" and they were directly responsible for the litter in the street.

A Maltese man who practices Islam and also resides on the street condemned the comments by the demonstrators and also insisted that the group's primary focus is the Muslim community.

Photos and video: James Bianchi

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