Muslims living in Malta have a religious duty to love the island and their loyalty should lie with their country of residence, the local leader of an Islamist reformist movement said as the Maltese today celebrate 50 years of independence.

Speaking about patriotism amid growing fears of an ‘Islamification’ of Europe and the imposition of Sharia law in Malta, the president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Malta, Laiq Ahmed Atif, said the moral code of Islam could not, in any way, be imposed on those who did not practise the religion.

We are here to live in peace, share our values and build bridges between communities to reduce fear

“If someone tries to force it on others it means they are going against the teachings of Islam. It’s illogical, impossible and against Sharia law itself to bring it to a Catholic country like Malta,” Mr Atif said.

Members of groups set up recently on social media have for the past weeks associated the invasion of the Ottoman Empire of 450 years ago with the increased arrival of Muslims in Malta.

Others have said that just as the Maltese stood their ground 50 years ago to gain independence, the islanders should protect Malta from Muslim dominance.

Mr Atif is originally from Pakistan but has lived in Malta for seven years.

“The Islamic religion says that Muslims have a duty to obey the authorities, the government and the State of where they live.

“The head of our community has insisted that we are not here or in any country to gain power and we do not have any political agenda.

“We are here to live in peace, share our values and build bridges between communities to reduce fear,” he said, adding the concern that someone was going to conquer Malta by force could be eliminated if all religions came together.

And, ultimately, people should not judge the religion of Islam on the actions of a few extremists who called themselves Muslims.

“There are individual examples of people using the name of religion for their own agenda. They’re using the name of God as a scapegoat,” he said when asked about declarations of violence in the name of God.

Quoting Prophet Muhammad, who said that “love for one’s country of residence is part of faith”, Mr Atif said that as a practising Muslim he declared his loyalty to Malta.

“Muslims living in Malta have a religious duty to love Malta, remain loyal to it, and always try to serve the country within their capacity. We should never harm the country.”

Today, Mr Atif’s community will pray for the prosperity and success of the country and the unity and strength of the nation.

“We will also decorate our homes and offices with candles to create an atmosphere of celebration and tell our children about the historic importance of the day. When they grow they have to serve the nation and work for the progress of the country.”

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