The Malta Independent 4 August 2020, Tuesday

Gaia's Gran

Noel Grima Sunday, 12 July 2020, 07:03 Last update: about 20 days ago

For those of us from Hamrun, the unprovoked and savage attack on an elderly woman in broad daylight in the central part of High Street was a deep shock especially when we later came to know the victim was a person most of us know, singer Gaia's grandmother.

She was walking along with her husband near the corner with the street we used to know as Broad Street when she was thumped on her head by a dark-skinned man who came from behind. Gaia's grandmother fell to the ground and the assailant was duly arrested.

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The story was reported with varying degrees of importance and not all media outlets carried it at all. But for us who come from Hamrun and who know the victim the story underlined the very different circumstances we have come to live in.

So far, to my knowledge, the attacker has not been arraigned and we have no information on what triggered the attack, but knowing the woman we can definitely say she was not the one who started the fracas.

In the same attack a delivery person was also attacked and he appeared in deep shock in some TV reports.

A few days earlier a similar attack took place on a woman again going about her own business. Again, we do not seem to have heard of any arraignment though in this case the perpetrator may have escaped.

On Sunday I sat for more than three hours on a chair on the pavement waiting for the pilgrimage/procession in a rather improvised and hurriedly set up post-Covid celebration.

The area had never seen so many police, zealously seeing to it no car remained parked along the route. I felt completely safe but the area and Hamrun in general has changed beyond recognition. Of every ten people who passed, eight were sure to be non-Maltese with sub-Saharans and Indians being in the majority.

Not all of this is making it to the mainline news, maybe because of a misplaced fear that to carry such stories inflames racist comments (as if people do not see what is happening around them and do not comment as they see fit in their homes, with their friends).

Now to remain in Hamrun we have the story which emerged from court on Thursday about a Syrian who is accused of beating up his daughter because she refused to marry the man he chose for her. (He is also accused of beating her up just because she did not put on the hijab to take up the rubbish.

Magistrate Joe Mifsud quite rightly pointed out we are not in Syria here and people here are free to choose who to marry and what to wear.

Had this case happened in other countries, we would have had a national debate on this. Here the internal battles inside the Opposition party get far more coverage.

The case of this girl is by no means the only case of the 'Padre Padrone' syndrome and girls and women under such pressure should find all help that they do not get in patriarchal settings.

We are living in troubled times and maybe the minorities here have been radicalised by the riots in the US, which might explain some unprovoked attacks.

At a different level, our model must be those countries which have insisted on a secular society where religious symbols such as the hijab are banned. But then what shall we do with the numerous religious symbols of the Catholic faith?

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