Holier than thou

I read with utmost disgust an article on The Times today entitled 'Muslims gather in prayer along Sliema front'. My disgust does not stem from the fact that Muslims gathered in prayer but from the cold-heartedness and the grave levels of intolerance which is becoming more and more synonymous with a good number of Maltese people. "Malta is a Catholic country. They have no right to come here and pray in front of us" said one observer and the other warned that "there will be trouble" if they gathered again.

I have come to the conclusion that the dualist mentality of 'us and them' is indeed deeper than I initially thought. Such mentality is further consolidated in a heated political climate wherein the fight for the national interest and national identity is taking center-stage and is, I believe, being used as a tool to justify racism. So much so, that people who in one way or another speak up for migrants' rights are branded "do-gooders" and "traitors". Indeed, the talk on unilateral action and on putting the national interest before any other consideration is picking up pace.

Professor Oliver Friggieri made some interesting remarks on Maltese culture in an interview regarding censorship published on l-orizzont (09.03.2009). I believe that in this interview he was justifying the censorship of 'Stitching' on the premise that Malta would risk losing its nature and identity should it adopt the European liberal mentality all of a sudden. Indeed, Malta is a "snail amongst elephants" said Friggieri, and it would be a mistake to pretend that you are an elephant when you are in fact a snail. Malta must continue with its snail's pace. He is a critic of the failed Constitution for Europe which omitted any reference to God and a supporter of religious morality. He also justifies radical dualism (in politics, sports, feasts) on the basis that is embedded in our genetic constitution.

I am certainly not a supporter of the Professor's comments. I feel that is due of the lack of liberty that we have come to uphold such a horrific and disgusting level of intolerance and disrespect towards other cultures and religions. It is because we are constitutionally governed by one religion and one religion only that prompts people to say "They have no right to come here and pray in front of us." It is precisely the snail's pace that is hindering respect and openness towards others. This intolerance is embedded in our laws which classify religions other than the Roman Catholic Apostilc Faith as 'cults'. And if dualism is genetic then it would follow that intolerance to other faiths is part of a perfectly natural process.

Other intellectuals, such as Prof. Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici, also hold that society in all its aspects should be governed by the morality of the Catholic Church. If this is the Catholic morality then it is a horrible one. Of course, they would argue that the true Catholic would welcome 'strangers' - it is only the pretend-believer or non-believer that leads a life of prejudice. Is that so? Then why is it that a non-believer like me (who supposedly lacks morality) openly supports tolerance and respect towards other religions and the astute Church-goer is disgusted by such concepts? What answer exists to such a question? The next remark would naturally be that I am generalizing. This may be so, but the pronouncements of hatred far outweigh those of tolerance - the latter are in fact largely silent. Also, if the true-believer was truly tolerant then he would have no qualm with the omission of any reference to a particular creed from the Constitution, right?

I am now in serious doubt whether the Maltese people are tolerant. All the signs, gestures and comments are pointing otherwise. Ironically, Malta is losing its identity not because of European liberalism, which preaches the freedom of religion, but precisely the opposite for we once had the fame of showing solidarity and compassion towards others. That was our true identity.

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One Response to Holier than thou

Nick said...

Do you think that Muslims are tolerant?

Were there any women among those Muslims, as they prayed?

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