The Malta Independent 29 May 2024, Wednesday
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Malta isn’t safe with Maltese racists about

Daphne Caruana Galizia Thursday, 24 September 2015, 13:32 Last update: about 10 years ago

Nine years ago, Maltese racists set fire to a house – a house, and not merely a front door – in which a family was sleeping. It was 3am, and they stacked lorry tyres packed with bottles of petrol against a set of glass doors leading into a room with carpets and sofas, then stacked jerry-cans full of petrol around the tyres for good measure, a few metres away from the ground-floor bedrooms. It was (and still is) the house in which I live and the reason they did so is because of my widely-known and published views against racism in general and Maltese racists in particular.

When one of my sons returned home shortly after they had left, the flames were already so high that he could see them over the roof of the house, two storeys up. He raised the alarm just as the flames were about to break through the glass and set the contents of the ground-floor rooms alight. Two factors saved our lives that night: the fact that he returned home soon after they left, and the fact that – by divine Providence or pure luck – we had changed our simple wood-and-glass doors to reinforced doors with security glass only a few days earlier. A third factor saved our house, given that the fire engine couldn’t find our house as easily as the racists did, and drove up and down the main road with its siren wailing for precious minutes: I can’t stand drip irrigation and those dreadful black pipes, and so the garden is equipped with an industrial-stand pump, heavy-duty hose-pipes and a water reservoir.

When the court-appointed expert tasked with writing the report arrived in the immediate aftermath, he was taken aback at what he found: the amount of incendiary material piled up against the doors in this violent attack, and the fact that the security doors were resilient enough to hold off the flames produced by all that petrol for those crucial minutes until we were woken and got the hoses going. He said he had never seen anything like it – all those tyres and jerry-cans of petrol used in a single arson attack on a household.

Many Maltese racists, members of vociferous hate groups, were taken in for questioning, some held under arrest, and their computers checked. The mobile telephony operators refused to release to the police a list of the mobile phone (numbers) that were in the immediate vicinity of our home at that time, citing ‘data protection’. Had sufficient proof been found against the perpetrators, they would have been charged with attempted murder and not just arson.

A few days before this happened, the racists painted abusive slogans which included my name and the word ‘blacks’ in three-foot-high letters on the wall along the road leading to my home. Neighbours were kind enough to paint them out, just as other neighbours and friends were kind enough to help us clear up the debris, clean the place and repaint the walls. Replacing the doors and windows took a little longer, and as a reminder of that dreadful night, one of the trees in our garden still discharges great, big, shiny, hard black gobbets of petrol-material which it has absorbed through the soil and processed. I used to leave them there to remind me how horrible some of my fellow citizens are, but now I remove them and look at the internet comments-boards instead.

The attack on our house was not the only one, though it was by far the worst as it was an attempt on our lives. In the same period, the lawyer who helps asylum-seekers with their applications for refugee status had the front door to her home set on fire. Clearly, if she had lived in a detached house like I do, they would tried to murder her in her bed, too – but setting fire to a terraced house in a street is extremely difficult and the best you can manage is the wooden front door. And then they burnt the cars owned by the Jesuit Order, which were parked in the grounds of St Aloysius College at night, because the Jesuits run the Jesuit Refugee Service.

Those violent attacks did not come out of nowhere. They were the culmination of weeks and months of constant rabble-rousing by Maltese hate groups and extreme-right political groupings that should more properly be classed in the ‘loony’ category but which are taken seriously by lots of Maltese who voted for them in the European Parliament elections. They incited people to racist hatred, played on ignorance and xenophobia, and above all, branded people like me, like the refugees’ lawyer and the Jesuits, as ‘lovers of blacks, Muslims and immigrants’ and ‘people who are against their own country’. And then the inevitable happened.

I bring this up now because I do not think it is a coincidence at all that a man – a British citizen, as it happens – who was mistaken for a “Muslim invader” was savagely beaten up with an iron bar, by a white-taxi driver, a few days ago. I expected something like this to happen because I remember what happened back then. The racists are at it once more, this time in response to the Syrian refugee crisis – marching with their far-right placards and banners, posting comments all over the internet, and behaving as though they own Malta, act on behalf of the Maltese, and speak for us all. People who don’t share their views are either intimidated into not countering their arguments, on line or in conversation, or treat the whole thing as a joke and dismiss these very dangerous people as ignorant idiots. Ignorant idiots can be dismissed, but these are not ignorant idiots. These are ignorant savages. Right now, it sounds to those who only read the internet as though they are the true voice of Malta. But they are not. So fight back. Their arguments are not difficult to counter. Get on the internet and make them understand that dangerous and intolerant racists have no place in anything that purports to be a civilised society.

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