A Catholic church school will be offering its facilities to Muslims who are facing difficulties to get a permit from where they can pray.

St Albert the Great College this morning said that objections to Muslim prayer places based on issues of public order or parking problems were "dubious" since they were not used for other entities.

The issue was once again rekindled after the St Paul's Bay council objected toa Malta Muslim Council application for planning permission to convert a basement-level shop in Triq il-Mazzola, Buġibba, into a new prayer room.

But the college observed that many of these Muslims had been forced to flee their countries because they could not enjoy a proper life there.

Such people had a right for a place of prayer as much as anybody else, the school said.

St Albert College said it was proud to welcome pupils with a diversity of religions and in the spirit of solidarity and justice and in line with the teachings of St Dominic, the college was therefore offering its facilities.

Meanwhile, far-right protesters will not have the backing of the St Paul’s Bay local council when they meet on Sunday to oppose a Muslim prayer room in Buġibba, the council has said, dissociating itself from the “extreme” gathering.

St Paul’s Bay mayor Graziella Galea said the council would take no part in the protest, organised by the anti-immigrant group Għaqda Patrijotti Maltin, although she maintained her opposition to the prayer room due to the unsuitability of the venue.

Our decision to object was reached independently and irrespective of religion; our only concern is residents and their rights

“Everyone has the right to protest, and they have all the necessary permits, but the action is taking things to another extreme,” Ms Galea told the Times of Malta. “Our decision to object was reached independently and irrespective of religion; our only concern is residents and their rights.”

The prayer room was immediately opposed by far-right groups, but the local council has also submitted its objections, citing residents’ noise complaints and a lack of adequate parking.

In a statement yesterday, the council stressed that its opposition was “not in any way linked to issues of religion”.

“The venue is unsuited to its present use, due to public order,” it said.

“The council affirms its commitment to all the people of the locality and their diverse perspectives, opinions and beliefs.”Ms Galea told this newspaper that she had had a “cordial” meeting with leaders from the Muslim community on Tuesday, on the request of President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca.

The mayor said that Muslim representatives had agreed about the unsuitability of the venue and expressed openness to finding an alternative, although they would still be pursuing the current application. Ms Galea added that if an alternative application were to be submitted, the council would consider it on its own merits, taking into account local residents’ opinions.

The PA has taken a dim view of prayer rooms in recent months, with applications in Gozo, Blata l-Bajda and Santa Venera – for both the Christian and Muslim communities – all turned down due to issues of parking and the disruption to residents.

In January, some 200 people met in an Msida square for Friday prayers that were organised by the Malta Muslim Council over several weeks, drawing attention to their situation after having been evicted from a number of meeting places around the island due to their lack of permits.


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