Some 40 members of the anti-immigrant Moviment Patrijotti Maltin gathered outside the Curia in Floriana today to protest against Muslim students being taught Islam in state or Church schools.
MPM officials refused to speak to the Times of Malta ahead of the march, and attempts to ask questions of attendees were generally met with hostility and insults.
The few who agreed to give comments argued that Islam was incompatible with Maltese identity, and that the request for Muslim students to receive religious education in state schools would be an “imposition” on the country’s way of life.
One took issue with comments by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community president Laiq Ahmed Atif, who earlier this week said state schools should be secular and not teach any religion doctrine. Incorrectly attributing the remarks to Imam El Sadi, she suggested the ultimate aim was to remove Christian education from schools.
One woman said she was afraid that her disabled son would be negatively affected by the introduction of Islam in schools, which, she claimed, described disability as a curse from God. This is not a mainstream Islamic belief.
Outside the Archbishop’s Curia, the protest briefly took on the form of an impromptu prayer meeting before addresses by MPM officials, who warned that allowing Islamic education would open the door to extremist ideas.
Education Minister Evarist Bartolo had said any teaching will be accredited by the education authorities and recognised the same way as other subjects.
But Simon Borg, one of the officials, questioned whether the authorities could enforce the law and reminded attendees that Islamic lessons could potentially take place in Arabic, adding: “How will we know what they’re saying?”
Another speaker said allowing Islam would be followed by similar requests from other religions, before launching into a lengthy lecture on Islam, suggesting all Muslims were fundamentally opposed to the Maltese way of life.
The Moviment Patrijotti Maltin, which intends to contest the next general election, has held regular anti-immigration and anti-Islam protests, which have ranged in size from a handful of people to a few hundred.
Today’s event followed a request made by Imam Mohammed El Sadi in the wake of a decision to close the Miriam Al Batool Muslim secondary school.
His suggestion that Muslim students be taught Islam in state schools has been favourably received by the government, while Archbishop Charles Scicluna has said he is open to a similar measure in Church schools if feasible.