Life changes, countries change, people change, culture changes. Progress brings with it inevitable changes. Multiculturalism is a result of such changes, it is a fact of life, it cannot be denied and should not be resisted.
It is part of the inevitable process of change.
Furthermore, multiculturalism is a positive phenomenon, as it enriches the culture of a country and the way of life of its people. Which is why I find it incredible that in Malta we still have people who consider resisting multiculturalism as some form of patriotism. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Indeed, multiculturalism has existed in Malta throughout most of its history. Centuries of foreign domination brought with them a mixing of the local Maltese population with the many foreigners present on the islands. One of the best examples of multiculturalism was the administration of the Maltese islands by the Knights of St John between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Malta in those days was full of knights of different nationalities as well as their retainers and several other people hailing from many different countries, both European and non-European.
This multiculturalism was highly beneficial to Malta, the best example of this being the cultural renaissance which produced such gems as St John’s Co-Cathedral, a wonderful example of baroque art and architecture.
The same was true of the British colonial period in the 19th and 20th centuries. So all this leads one to ask what is so different today and why there is so much resistance from certain Maltese when faced with the modern version of multiculturalism.
One of the reasons is, of course, that today we have an influx of non-European people, people of colour and people whose religion is different from that of the majority of the Maltese. It is the usual Maltese insular fear of all that is different.
Notice how much less resistant are many Maltese to another aspect of multiculturalism, i.e. the many foreigners living among us who hail from different European countries.
Malta already has a multicultural society and nothing and nobody can stop what is a natural process of social development
The latter are never perceived as a threat by the majority of Maltese while other foreigners such as Africans and Arabs are so perceived by a number of people.
The contemporary world problem of terrorism has, of course, led to a further muddying of the waters. The rise of Islamic State terrorism on our North African doorstep has led to apocalyptic scenarios of a Malta at the mercy of terrorists due to an attack from within staged by immigrants already on the islands.
While one has to admit that Malta, like many other countries, has to be vigilant and ready to counter any possible threat of terrorism, this does not mean that we have to overreactand equate multiculturalism with terrorism. Such an idea is utterly preposterous.
Whether one likes it or not, the crux of the argument is that multiculturalism is here to stay.
Common sense dictates that as a people we should recognisethat this is an inevitable process of change which we have tocome to terms with and use as a catalyst of progress, cultural enrichment and social development in our country.
We cannot go on having people insult others and make them feel unwelcome just because the colour of their skin is different or because they have different customs and a different religion.
People who reject multiculturalism in Malta are not patriots, they are simply making the process of integrating people from different cultural backgrounds more difficult. They are letting their country down and showing disrespect towards the tradition of hospitality for which the Maltese are famous.
Make no mistake about it, Malta already has a multicultural society and nothing and nobody can stop what is a natural process of social development. Change cannot be stayed. The choice is between positively exploiting such a change or impotently trying to stop it.
We need to use our creativity and imagination to perceive how different Maltese society will be fifty years from now. One thing is certain, it will be a very different Malta from the one we know now but, hopefully, it will also be a better place to live in.
It will probably be a cosmopolitan country with different religions peacefully coexisting side by side. We shall almost certainly have an educational system which caters for students from different cultures where thehistory we teach will most likely have ceased being Eurocentric and will include substantial chunks of African and Asian history as well as some history of the other continents.
Our cultural calendar could include festivals and celebrations hitherto unknown to us but very familiar to other cultures.
I know that some people will be horrified by this hypothetical Maltese scenario. Some will even feel thankful that they will no longer be around by then. Indeed, it is quite possible that this is what the Malta of the future will look like.
People of my age will not live to see it but at least we can work today towards a better multicultural future tomorrow.
Desmond Zammit Marmarà is a Balzan Labour councillor.
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