CAIRO – Spending thousands on a place after another, a long sought permit for prayer place remains a far dream for the Muslim community in Msida town in Malta northern coast.
“We’ve started losing heart in finding a new place,” Malta Muslim Council spokesman Bader Zina told the Times of Malta on Tuesday, January 19.
“We spent thousands on the place in Msida to ensure that everything was up to standard. There’s no point finding a new place if we’re just going to be shut down.”
Zina was speaking about the latest decision to deny Muslims a permit to change the use of a large garage in Santa Venera to be used for prayers.
The decision came against the recommendation of the Mepa case officer. It also followed another decision to evict Muslims from a building in Msida last month.
Drawing attention to their cause, some 200 Muslims met in a square close to the Msida parish church for Friday prayers over the past few weeks.
The prayers prompted a protest last Sunday by members of the Għaqda Patrijotti Maltin, who accused the Muslim group of provocation and claimed they should not be allowed to pray in public.
Zina stressed that the prayer meetings were not intended to antagonize anyone, but simply to draw attention to the needs of the group for a centrally-located meeting place.
He added that the current Paola mosque is too far away for people living or working in the north of the island to reach during working hours.
Operating few prayer locations, the group fears they could be shut down at any moment due to lack of permit.
“We’re not hiding anything,” Zina said.
“In fact we have very good relationships with the police: whenever we’ve been approached, we’ve always given them all the information they need.”
Referring to Għaqda Patrijotti Maltin protest, Zina urged members of the community to talk to Muslims to get a better understanding of Islam and interfaith relations.
“What I don’t understand is why they can’t speak to us and sort out any issues they have on a human level,” he said.
“After all, I consider myself a Maltese patriot too, not just for myself, but for my children.”
There is no official figure on the number of Muslim in Malta, an island country with a 400,000-strong population.
According to Wikipedia, the present-day Muslim community in Malta is a minority of around 6,000.
There is one mosque, founded in 1978 by the World Islamic Call Society.