Atop Paola Hill, Malta’s only Muslim school has secured a pledge from both major parties to have a €400,000 loan waived by a new government.

It was Joseph Muscat’s turn yesterday to tell the Muslim community gathered after Friday prayers at the Paola Mosque that a Labour government will forfeit the money owed by the school.

Dr Muscat said the loan would be considered an investment in the school.

“It will be a great loss for Malta if this school closes down.”

In an indirect jibe at the Prime Minister’s pledge to waive the loan, the Labour leader told the congregation that what he was telling them inside the Mosque, Labour had communicated to the rest of the country through its manifesto.

Although the manifesto does not specifically mention the loan waiver, it states a Labour government will “enter into an agreement to assure a future of certainty for the Mariam al- Batool School” and safeguard its educational model “based on diversity”.

Mariam al-Batool is the only Muslim school to offer primary and secondary education and is run by a Roman Catholic headmistress. The school experienced financial difficulty during the Libya crisis and the Government had stepped in to alleviate the burden.

Dr Muscat addressed the Muslim community, made up mostly of young men, as “Maltese friends”. He said Malta belonged to people of different faiths and Labour had etched this in its principles when these were reviewed in 2008.

Dr Muscat said a Labour government would set up a consultative council for foreign communities in Malta to ensure constant dialogue.

However, he was noncommittal on a wish-list read out by Imam Mohammed El Saadi that included a request for Muslim women to be allowed to wear the hijab at their place of work and in schools.

The Imam also asked for an adjacent piece of land to be given to the school for expansion and Muslims to be given their religious holidays.

He called for Muslims to be allowed a two-hour break on Fridays to fulfil their obligation to pray and for Muslim children in State schools to be given the opportunity to get their religious education there.

The Imam made it a point to stress that within the Muslim community there were people who supported different political parties and it was not up to him to tell them how to vote.


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