Around 40 Muslims yesterday spent an hour at prayer on the Sliema seafront for the second Friday in a row.

The men, many dressed in traditional garb, gathered quietly at 1 p.m., removed their shoes and knelt down on their prayer rugs.

Few people were on the promenade at the time, except for tourists who stopped to take photos of the scene.

Some people seated on benches quickly picked up their bags and left when they saw the men preparing to pray.

Theirs is a form of protest against the fact that the planning authority last March closed off a flat they used to use as a place of worship in Sliema.

The authority only took action after the Ombudsman issued a report calling for enforcement action.

Yesterday there were six police officers near the men while plainclothes policemen kept a close eye on the situation from a distance.

Led by Bader Zina, the men knelt and faced in the direction of Mecca, praying for one hour.

The Muslims, many of them Maltese, prayed at the same spot last Friday with a permit and police protection. Many onlookers did not warm to the idea then, with some saying they had no right to pray in public in a Catholic country and others even threatening trouble if the men persisted with the practice.

However, yesterday's meeting passed off peacefully.

Mr Zina said that the meetings would continue as long as they were granted a permit to hold them.

Imam Mohammed El Said refused to comment on the situation.


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