A planning hearing on the construction of a mosque in Ħal-Farruġ has been suspended, days before it was due to be given the Planning Authority go-ahead.
Plans propose the construction of a religious and cultural hub including a place of worship with ancillary sanitary facilities, meeting rooms, administrative offices, and basement parking in the Ħal-Farruġ industrial zone.
If approved, the site would become Malta's second Muslim permanent prayer space. Another mosque in Kordin, Paola, opened in the 1980s.
Zakaria Alkatib, who applied on behalf of Islamic Solidarity Malta said the Ħal Farruġ site is government property but has been leased to the group for a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of 99.
Mystery 'land title'
A Planning Authority hearing was set for Tuesday and was slated to see the project approved, as per the case officer's recommendation.
However, the application is now suspended.
“Please be advised that this application will no longer be discussed during the meeting scheduled for 2022-11-8,” a communique sent on Friday by the Planning Authority said.
Luqa mayor John Schembri announced on Friday that the mosque application was suspended because of pending verifications concerning its land title.
Schembri's son, Silvio Schembri, is Economy Minister with a portfolio that includes the Lands Authority.
The Luqa local council that John Schembri leads and which also oversees the hamlet of Ħal Farruġ has been a vocal critic of the project.
In a statement, the council said the approval of this application would lead to “extreme air pollution,” and increased traffic to the detriment of residents.
“As we already said in official correspondence with the PA in February, this development shows a lack of respect for the community of Luqa and Ħal Farruġ,” the statement read.
The local council had announced a press conference for Saturday to further outline their position. The Luqa mayor, however, cancelled the event on his personal Facebook profile following the news of the suspension.
A years-long push for prayer space
The Muslim community in Malta has been looking for a second place of worship for some time. In 2018 Times of Malta reported how the search for another Muslim prayer space has been ongoing for 18 years.
In 2015 a planning application to convert a large Santa Venera garage to a prayer space was turned down by the PA.
A strange saga followed. Members of the Muslim community started praying on the Msida seafront, which led to a reaction by defunct right-wing political party “Għaqda Patrijotti Maltin” whose members served ham sandwiches on the makeshift prayer site.