Monday, 30 November 2009

RTK: Bla Kantunieri: Kummenti fuq l-Imam el Sadi

Programm tar-Radju imxandar fit-30 ta' Novembru 2009 f' 12:20 u fit-20:05

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Guardian: Gay Argentine couple's wedding plans divide an entire continent

Two Argentinians will this week become the first gay couple in Latin America to get married, following a three-year campaign that pitted politician against politician, overturned laws and angered millions of Catholics

Alex Freyre and partner Jose Maria Di Bello, Latin America's first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage licence Photograph: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters

The Beruti register office in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires will never have witnessed a marriage like it. On Tuesday, Alex Freyre and José María Di Bello, who met three years ago at a conference on HIV, will make history and divide a continent as they become Latin America's first gay married couple.

The ceremony will be a tribute to their determination as well as their love for each other, after a bitter three-year campaign which has divided a city, outraged Argentina's powerful Roman Catholic church and overturned the constitution.

Freyre and Di Bello's forthcoming nuptials have been debated on television, in churches and on the street. Hostile posters can be found on billboards across the city. But, in Di Bello's words, nothing can now prevent him and his partner becoming "husband and husband".

Not surprisingly, the marriage is already being hailed by equality activists as a significant triumph against the odds in a traditionally macho society. Argentina – and Latin America in general – is not known for a tolerance of sexual diversity, and violence against gays is an everyday occurrence.

"This marriage is bigger than José María and I," Freyre told theObserver. "It is a victory for all who face prejudice and discrimination across Latin America and the Caribbean. It is proof that at last the grip of the Catholic church is slipping across Latin America, the system that has kept gay communities silent and fearful is crumbling. What is happening on Tuesday is a strike against those attitudes that have repressed sexual rights across this continent for too long."

The most controversial marriage in Argentina's history became possible when a city court judge ruled that it was unconstitutional for civil law to stipulate that a marriage can exist only between a man and a woman. The marriage licence was granted on 16 November. Since then, the couple and their lawyers have come under virulent attack from church leaders, who have warned that the marriage could act as the catalyst for the swift decline of the continent's traditional family values.

The archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, has publicly lashed out at the city's mayor, Mauricio Macri, who decided not to lodge an appeal against the judge's decision to grant the marriage licence. An appeal by the city government against the judge's ruling would, in effect, have overturned the judge's decision and stopped the licence being granted. Bergoglio said that, in failing to act, Macri had "gravely failed" at his task of governing.

For his part, Macri issued a statement saying that he had gone through "an important internal debate", adding: "We have to live with and accept this reality: the world is moving in this direction." He said government officials should "safeguard the right of each person to freely choose with whom they want to form a couple and be happy".

Anti-Macri posters showing two men kissing and asking "Did you vote Macri for this?" have been plastered across Buenos Aires in protest at the marriage.

Last week, as media interest in the marriage reached fever pitch, Freyre and Di Bello spent their last days as single men crisscrossing Buenos Aires from TV studio to radio station. "It's become so much bigger than us that I forget that I'm actually getting married and we haven't even arranged anything for the wedding," said Freyre.

Freyre and Di Bello, both long-term activists and HIV and equality rights campaigners, are now offering their legal team to other couples who want to win the right to marry through city courts. "What can't happen is that this becomes a one-off," said Freyre. "We may have won our battle, but we don't want to be the exception."

Campaigners are now hoping that gay and lesbian couples in other cities will extend the fight to outside the capital. Claudio Rosso, a 32-year-old psychoanalyst from the city of Rosario, believes that the marriage will send a strong message that the law is finally supporting the rights of gay people across the country. "This can change the way the gay community perceives itself," said Rosso. "It will take time for this to have an impact outside of Buenos Aires, but for the gay community in Argentina the feeling that you have the law on your side creates a feeling of positivity and optimism that things can change."

Although the new judicial ruling sets no precedent beyond this case, lawyers for the couple hope the ruling will increase pressure on lawmakers to debate a gay marriage bill currently deadlocked in Congress.

"This is just one marriage in one city in Latin America, we are very far away from this right being extended across the country, let alone the continent," said Analia Mariel Mas, the lead lawyer working with the couple.

"Recently, we travelled with a delegation of equality rights campaigners to the north of the country, and had people waving crucifixes at us as if they were seeing Satan in human form. So there needs to be a change to the national legislation to force through changes and uphold our constitutional rights. Change won't happen if we try to do this case by case."

No country in Latin America allows gay marriage, although several cities in Mexico and Uruguay have followed Buenos Aires by allowing same-sex civil unions, which grant some of the rights accorded to married heterosexual couples. Earlier this year, Freyre and Di Bello rejected offers of a civil union, arguing that only marriage would give them the same legal rights and status in the eyes of the law. "We are citizens, so we are asserting our rights as citizens," said Freyre. "We have the right to the same legal status in the eyes of the law and deserve to be given the same legal protection as heterosexual couples."

Changing articles in Argentina's civil code to allow same-sex marriage has support among deputies in President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's ruling Peronist party, although the president herself has yet to take a stand.

The city is expecting large crowds to gather outside the register office on Tuesday, where plasma screens will broadcast the marriage ceremony. Security will be tight to deal with protesters.

In the cafes and bars of Buenos Aires, the marriage of Di Bello and Freyre has become a constant topic of conversation. The city is considered one of Latin America's "gay-friendly" cities and was the first place there to allow same-sex civil unions in 2002. But, for some, gay marriage is still a step too far.

On a corner in Palermo, close to where the wedding will take place, Bruno Cabral, a 42-year old civil engineer, sent an approving nod in the direction of a bank of anti-Macri posters. The marriage, he said, was an "abomination".

"Buenos Aires used to be a city which respected family, which respected traditional ways of life, but now look at what is happening, they are making mockery of marriage," he said. "This isn't a city I recognise any more."

Others see the marriage as a symbol of change for Argentina and for the continent. The wedding has received general support from the mainstream press, with many people expressing their approval of Freyre and Di Bello's right to marry.

"To me this marriage is perfect," said Cecilia Quiles, a 26-year-old office manager. "It is only changes like this which will move us to a place where we are all respecting each other. Those who call this marriage unnatural or wrong are living in the past. We are moving on."

Freyre and Di Bello say they will be relieved when the spotlight moves elsewhere after Tuesday's ceremony. "We have people calling us every day saying we are their heroes, people we don't know crying on the phone saying that Tuesday will be the best day of their life," said Freyre. "But we won't want to be heroes, all we wanted to do was get married. And now we've brought a little rainbow to Latin America, it's time for others to take up the banner as well and make us not the exception but the rule."

Independent: A letter to Mark Montebello OP
29.11.9? by Martin Bugeja

If it’s any consolation, your Maker made certain that you appeared on this earth in the 20th century and not the 15th. For, as surely as night follows day, your fellow Dominican Tomas de Torquemada OP would have had you consigned to the flames ages ago, as soon as you started to open your mouth to condemn the many facets of hypocrisy that stand out a mile in this powerful Maltese branch of the Roman Catholic Church, headed by holier-than-thou arch-conservatives who believe that they have a monopoly on the truth – and anyone else daring to speak their mind is sent to Coventry in subtle or not so subtle ways.

You were right of course. And you had the guts to say it out loud. Any male or female member of the local clergy engaging in the physical or sexual abuse of children needn’t worry about ending up in Corradino for a spell. They just once in a blue moon might end up being arraigned... but that’s a different story, as you well know. Such a fate is only reserved for Maltese abusers who don’t wear dog collars around their necks or veils over their heads. To hell with those shattered innocent young lives!

What’s important is that no whiff of scandal is allowed to waft its way into the consciences of those members of the faithful who can find it within themselves to call a spade a spade. Did you by any chance read last Friday’s (27 November 2009) article in The Guardian on the devastating report pertaining to the sexual and physical abuse of children by certain members of the Irish clergy from 1975 to 2004? The article quotes this salient piece from the three-volume report: “The maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets was more important than justice for the victims”.

Regarding your recent pronouncements on the public display of that gibbet upon which Jesus paid the ultimate price for speaking His mind, I would like to inform your patronising superiors that I, Martin Bugeja can think for myself – thank you very much – and consequently did not take offence at them.

On the contrary, I wholeheartedly agree with all that you said and add that certain miscarriages of justice have occurred in courtrooms adorned with the Cross. You’re so right. It’s not displaying it, wearing it, kissing it, kneeling before it or boasting of your love for it that counts. That’s easy stuff! What the Living Image on it wants us to do is live by it. That’s the hard part, as we all know.

Like yourself, I differentiate between Jesus Christ and certain celibate ruling members of His Church that I liken to salt of the earth that has lost its flavour. In fact I don’t consider myself a Catholic any more but a person trying, succeeding and failing to live according to the words of Jesus Christ.

And I certainly won’t be waving any yellow and white flags around, come April 2010. I think I’ll pack my bags for that weekend and fly to a super – secular – country like Holland, where divorce and same-sex marriages are allowed, and ask a few of its citizens if they know anything about loving their neighbour.

[P. Attard's Note: Pope Benedict XVI will visit Malta between 17 and 18 April 2010.]

Times: Malta 'burying head in sand' on sexual health
29.11.9 by Ariadne Massa

Malta is burying its head in the sand on sexual health, according to a World Health Organisation adviser who is concerned about soaring teenage pregnancies and the lack of proper sex education.

John Richens, whose recent visit to Malta was not publicised even though he was invited by the health authorities, seemed baffled that he did not manage to see a copy of the National Sexual Health Policy.

"I requested it but it was withheld from me. There was a reluctance to share the document. I don't know what the reasons for this were," he told The Sunday Times, when contacted at his office in the UK.

Dr Richens, a clinical specialist in sexually transmitted infections and HIV at the University College London who was invited to help Malta set up a sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention programme, said a national sexual health strategy "was a matter of urgency".

His visit came just weeks after the third and latest draft of the National Sexual Health Policy - which would cost €1.5 million to implement - was withdrawn from the 2010 Budget, snuffing out the possibility it would see the light of day after 10 years in the making.

Dr Richens's report on Malta, which this newspaper obtained, points out that STI prevention and control appear to be low on the political agenda as there is no published national strategy, no defined budget and a small response team.

The report also observes the "strong negative influence of the Catholic Church" to have comprehensive sexual health promotion in schools, which it says was a constant theme raised by Maltese health professionals and politicians.

Dr Richens said Malta stood out because of the large number of births to teenagers, and reports from the GU Clinic indicating condoms and contraception were being used by very few people.

According to the latest European Perinatal Health Report, Malta has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the EU - 5.5 to 6.6 per cent of all pregnancies in females under 20 in the years 1999 to 2008. GU Clinic figures consistently point to a high rate of casual sex with 70 per cent of those who visit the clinic admitting to never using a condom.

Dr Richens, who is working with WHO to roll out a global strategy for the prevention and control of STIs, said: "It's shocking that Malta has been trying to get it (the sexual health policy) published for 10 years... That's a concern."

He is also worried about the lack of cooperation from Church schools' in connection with surveys of health behaviour of schoolchildren (HBSC).

Three years ago the Curia's education secretariat had instructed Church schools not to distribute WHO's HBSC survey to Form I, III and V pupils because it disapproved of the nature of the questions about sexual relations.

While in Malta, Dr Richens met Archbishop Paul Cremona to gauge whether it would be possible to get more information about teenage sexual activity through surveys in Church schools, but he did not get far.

"He was very charming but very firm. He acknowledged it was important to have the information, but he was reluctant to say the Church would cooperate with those surveys. He accepts the problem, but does not want to get involved in finding a solution," he said.

Dr Richens believed the way forward was to provide teenagers with accessible comprehensive information that presented all the methods available to prevent infection and pregnancy.

When it was pointed out that in Malta many favoured promoting abstinence rather than safe sex, Dr Richens said this type of programme, advocated by the Church, had been used in the US, but scientific studies suggested it was not as successful in reducing teenage pregnancies.

"The comprehensive approach is what is espoused in the Netherlands and delivers excellent results. The country has the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and they have a very good programme of sex education in schools," he said.

The report's findings and recommendations

• The report highlights the failure to investigate sex workers operating from massage parlours, gentlemen's clubs and hotel bars. There is no outreach health promotion or sexual health services for these people.

• There is also no specialist health services catering specifically for the sexual health needs of young people and access to contraception for females under 18 is difficult, because it requires a parent's consent.

• A national sexual strategy for Malta is a matter of urgency.

• Funding from the government or the EU should be secured to implement the strategy.

• Laws that work against sexual health objectives, such as age of consent, and laws governing provision of contraception, have to be reviewed.

• A programme of regular surveillance of sexual behaviour and STIs among the young and high-risk groups has to be developed.

• Sexually active 16- to 18-year-olds should have improved access to long-acting removable contraception (LARC), such as the contraceptive jab or the coil.

• At least one non-Church based family planning clinic able to offer a full range of modern methods, including long-lasting birth control should be set up.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Saturday, 28 November 2009

PinkNews: Gordon Brown raises anti-gay laws with Ugandan president


The prime minister has raised Uganda's controversial proposed laws on homosexuality with the country's president at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Trinidad. Gordon Brown told Yoweri Museveni that he was opposed to laws that could result in the execution of gays.

A Downing Street source said: "The Foreign Office will be following the passage of the bill closely and we will continue to do everything we can privately and publically to prevent its passage . . . it has been raised in the strongest terms at the highest possible level today."

The bill, which had its first reading in Parliament last month,would mean death or life imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality. Those found guilty of "promoting" homosexuality would also received harsh punishments.

The death penalty would be used against those found guilty of "aggravated homosexuality"- a sexual act where one person has HIV or AIDS.

Gay rights groups have urged Commonwealth leaders to throw Uganda out of the Commonwealth unless it drops the proposed law.

Earlier this week, Museveni said: "I hear European homosexuals are recruiting in Africa.
“We used to have very few homosexuals traditionally. They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either because it was clear that is not how God arranged things to be.”

"You should discourage your colleagues [who are gay] because God was not foolish to do the way he arranged.

"Mr and Mrs, but now you have to say Mr and Mr? What is that now?”

Earlier this month, the Foreign Office told "The adoption of the bill could do serious damage to efforts to tackle HIV and its criminalisation of organisations that support homosexuality could, in theory, encompass most donor agencies and international NGOs.

"The UK, alongside our EU partners, has raised our concerns about the draft bill and LGBT rights more broadly with the government of Uganda, including with the prime minister and several other ministers, the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, and senior officials from the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We will continue to track the passage of the bill and to lobby against its introduction."

Although Brown's discussions with President Museveni have not been made public, his spokesperson said that he raised the issues and that the British government's view on this matter was clear.

Brown's position was echoed by Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper. His spokesman said: "If adopted, a bill further criminalising homosexuality would constitute a significant step backwards for the protection of human rights in Uganda."

[Click here to read the comments on the PinkNews website.]

[Read Bill 18, the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill here.]

Friday, 27 November 2009

YouTube: Adam Joseph "Finally" [Marriage Equality]

An Ode to Marriage Equality. Adam Joseph's New Cover Mashup Music Video
Music Video Directed by Adam Joseph and Josh Kesner
Filmed and Edited by Josh Kesner; Starring Lars Stephan, Stuart Perkins and Erickatoure Aviance; Special Thanks to Joseph Alexiou;

Simon Busuttil: [Against] Recognition of same-sex marriages

Press Release: 26.11.9 entitled:

EU-wide area of freedom, justice and security is the next big EU project – Simon Busuttil MEP - Resolution calls again for compulsory solidarity in immigration.

Simon Busuttil MEP, EPP coordinator in the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs welcomed the adoption by the European Parliament of the resolution on the Stockholm Programme hailing it as a big success for the EPP group.

The resolution was adopted by a big majority by the Strasbourg plenary on Thursday and lists the political priorities of the European Parliament in the area of justice and home affairs for the next five years. The so-called Stockholm Programme will now be up for adoption by the Council of Ministers next week.

“Creating an EU-wide area of freedom, justice and security for European citizens is the next big EU project after the completion of the EU single market and we shall be pursuing this ambitious project enthusiastically.” said Simon Busuttil.

“I am very satisfied with today’s vote because the resolution bears all the marks of the EPP’s political priorities in justice and home affairs and it reflects our commitment to a citizens’ Europe and to a safer Europe.” he said.

The resolution covers a range of subjects falling within the area of justice and home affairs, ranging from cooperation in police and customs matters, criminal and civil law, immigration and asylum, visa policy, EU citizenship, civil liberties and fundamental freedoms.


On immigration the resolution reiterates the European Parliament’s adopted Simon Busuttil’s amendment calling for solidarity to be established on a “compulsory and irrevocable” basis. The resolution also places priority on the fight against illegal immigration notably through better co-operation with third countries, the strengthening of Frontex and through better coordination of the return of irregular migrants.

Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages

The resolution’s success was in doubt until the last minute as MEPs argued over whether the resolution should call for the recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in other Member States. In the event, the plenary replaced this reference with a compromise amendment tabled by Simon Busuttil, on behalf of the EPP group, which removed the reference to recognition.

"We are satisfied that reason has prevailed and that this compromise was adopted.” Simon Busuttil said.

“On the basis of the principle of subsidiarity, European law should not oblige Member States to recognise same-sex marriages contracted in other Member States since family law is a matter for individual countries to determine.” he said.

“This was reflected in our compromise amendment which supported freedom of movement of persons without discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation. However it also made it clear that this must not prejudice the right of individual countries to decide for themselves how they wish to regulate family law.” “I know that this is a sensitive issue for different people with diametrically opposite views on this delicate matter; however my compromise was reasonable and fair and that is why it found the support of a cross-party majority in the chamber." Busuttil said.

[You can watch the intervention of Dr Busuttil in the EP plenary here.]

Thursday, 26 November 2009

MaltaStar: Adultery, homosexuality and same-sex marriages are wrong – Imam

26 November 2009 10:42

“When I expressed my disagreement with adultery, homosexuality and same-sex marriages, I did it out of honesty and goodwill,” Muhammad El Sadi, Imam of the Muslim community in Malta, said following a controversy over his comments in particular to the homosexual community.

The Imam expressed his concerned that “adultery, homosexuality and same-sex marriages” were incurring the “wrath of God.” His comments were met with indignation by the gay community and NGOs.

Writing on the Times of Malta, while offering an apology for those who have been hurt by his comment, he reiterated his position, stating: “I would be betraying my conviction, faith, mission, Muslims and non-Muslims and deceiving the Maltese public if I said that these practices were safe and proper, securing the welfare of man or pleasing God in any way.”

“These practices are wrong and we will keep advising people to avoid such acts,” the Imam added.

Imam added that through his statement he did not mean to hurt anybody’s sentiment but rather a defensive position to a number of provocative questions. “I was simply exerting my right of expression. If my words did hurt anybody, I do heartily apologise.”

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar's website.]

MaltaStar: Concerns on Imam’s statements
25 November 2009 18:44

Moviment Graffitti expressed its concernes about the Imam El Sadi’s comments where he likened same-sex marriage to marriage involving a cat or a dog and where he spoke about inhumane practices to deal with persons who commit certain crimes.

Moviment Graffitti stated that it stands for respect to all religious beliefs, these latter should also respect all people, irrespective of their sexual orientation. “Homosexuals have the right to be respected in every country and we also believe that these people should be recognised as couples and enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by heterosexual couples.”

”We understand that El Sadi’s comments do not represent all Muslims, same as the homophobic comments of certain representatives of the Catholic Church do not represent all Catholics. We hope that in the near future the two sides can come closer together and that there will be respect from both sides and work together for the benefit of a more inclusive society.”

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar's website.]

EU: Il-programm ta' Stokkolma: L-MEPs iridu iktar drittijiet għaċ-ċittadini

Ġustizzja u Intern - 25-11-2009 - 17:39

[Parti mill-istqarrija. Jekk trid tara l-artiklu kollu ikklikja fuq il-hyperlink ta' hawn fuq.]

Skont l-MEPs, il-pajjiżi tal-UE għandhom jaħdmu flimkien aħjar sabiex itejbu l-ilqugħ ta' persuni li jkunu qegħdin ifittxu ażil u jsaħħu l-ġlieda kontra d-diskriminazzjoni. Huma jqisu wkoll li għandu jittejjeb l-aċċess għall-ġustizzja, waqt li jissaħħu d-drittijiet tal-priġunieri. Dawn kienu fost l-affarijiet li l-MEPs talbu fir-riżoluzzjoni li adottaw b'rabta mal-programm tal-UE għall-ġustizzja u l-intern, li jkopri l-ħames snin li ġejjin.

Permezz ta' din ir-riżoluzzjoni adottata b'487 vot favur, 122 kontra u 49 astensjoni, il-Parlament Ewropew ħabbar il-pożizzjoni tiegħu fir-rigward tal-hekk imsejjaħ Programm ta' Stokkolma, li jistabilixxi l-prioritajiet tal-UE fl-oqsma tal-ġustizzja u l-intern tul il-ħames snin li ġejjin. Il-Programm ta' Stokkolma għandu jiġi adottat formalment mill-mexxejja tal-gvernijiet tal-UE fis-Samit tal-Kunsill Ewropew tal-10 u l-11 ta' Diċembru.

Il-ġlieda kontra d-diskriminazzjoni u l-abbuż tat-tfal

L-MEPs iqisu li sett komprensiv ta' għajnuna legali għandha tkun għad-dispożizzjoni tal-vittmi ta' atti kriminali, speċjalment dawk li jisfaw vittmi ta' traffikar tal-persuni jew ta' vjolenza abbażi tas-sess. Il-minoranzi etniċi jiffaċċjaw ukoll ir-riskju li jispiċċaw vittmi ta' diskriminazzjoni u ta' atti kriminali b'motivazzjoni razzista. Għaldaqstant il-Membri talbu li tiġi mfassla direttiva u tkun stabbilita strateġija Ewropea komprensiva bil-għan li teradika l-vjolenza fuq in-nisa u kwalunkwe abbużi kontra t-tfal. Barra minn hekk, għandu jkun hemm leġislazzjoni dwar ir-reati tal-mibegħda.

It-test adottat jinkludi emenda miftiehema bejn l-EPP u l-S&D, li permezz tagħha l-Parlament jistieden lill-Istati Membri sabiex jassiguraw il-libertà tal-moviment liċ-ċittadini kollha tal-UE u l-familji tagħhom, inklużi koppji b'reġistrazzjoni ta' sħubija u dawk miżżewġin, "filwaqt li jevitaw kull tip ta’ diskriminazzjoni fuq kwalunkwe bażi inkluż l-orjentazzjoni sesswali."

Matul id-dibattitu li sar qabel il-votazzjoni, Simon Busuttil (EPP, MT) stqarr li l-grupp EPP jemmen fil-prinċipju ta' non-diskriminazzjoni, "però nqisu wkoll li hemm il-prinċipju tas-sussidjarjetà illi jfisser li għandna nirrispettaw ukoll is-sensittivitajiet nazzjonali fil-pajjiżi Membri tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Ma ninsewx illi din l-Unjoni hija mibnija fuq unità fid-diversità u mhux unità billi kulħadd ikun l-istess."


Ref. : 20091124IPR65083
Kuntatt: Corinne CORDINA

Times: Gays, lesbians and special pleading

Thursday, 26th November 2009 by Josie Muscat, leader, Azzjoni Nazzjonali, Marsascala

The trouble with the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transsexual community is that they see nobody else on the horizon except themselves. And considering the discrimination they have been subjected to, I can understand that and make allowances for it.

But Bernard Muscat (November 20) has failed to understand the main thrust of my letter. When I set up the Eden Foundation, I fought tooth and nail to get children with disability out of the ghetto of "special" schools and to have them integrated into the mainstream school community. I understood very early that when the disadvantaged and those suffering discrimination allow them themselves to be sectionalised, they do themselves no good. People with disability in Malta started improving their lot, dismantling the barriers of prejudice when they started attending mainstream schools with their peers and earning a living by working in the same offices and sharing the same shop-floors with other citizens. They did not earn their badge of citizenship by staying apart from the others and asking for favours or additional rights.

They are different and that difference is part of the variegated colours of humanity. Their difference should not serve to create obstacles in their way but neither does it justify special pleading. This applies to all groups who believe they suffer from any form of discrimination.
Mr Muscat also accused Azzjoni Nazzjonali's electoral manifesto regarding the LGBT community as being a political ploy. Again he has misunderstood. If he comes to St James Hospital he will see members of his community employed there. Don't ask me who they are because sexual orientation is not a criterion for employment. To me they are men and women who carry out a job and who get paid for it: nothing more, nothing less. And that is the way I believe it ought to be. In Azzjoni Nazzjonali's manifesto we declared, loudly and clearly, that by family we mean the union of a man and a woman and we are prepared to do our utmost not to have that compromised. However, we were more than ready, on the advice of members of the LGBT community, to promise the full legal benefits of a civil union to gay couples. We were not prepared to go beyond that and have not changed our minds on the subject. That surely is our prerogative.

We have been true to what was stated in our manifesto. We did not try to profit from the plight, perceived or otherwise, of the LGBT community. We did not promise gays more than we were prepared to give. It is of course Mr Muscat's prerogative to make his political choices.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: Upholding spiritual and moral values

Thursday, 26th November 2009 by Muhammad El Sadi

With reference to the article What Is Wrong With Chopping Of Thieves' Hands, Imam Asks (November 19), I would like to clarify some points.

The Bondìplus edition during which I uttered the title statement was not about Sharia law, rather it was about whether crucifixes should be removed from classrooms. In spite of the fact that Islam does not believe in the crucifixion dogma and its philosophy, my position was against the removal of crucifixes because it goes against the Islamic values of democracy and religious freedom and because it creates hatred and extremism among the followers of different religions.

Besides, I consider such a precedent as a threat to all religions because it institutes the reign of atheism over religion and paves the way to remove religions from our lives and from society. Unfortunately, my positive attitude, which harmonises with that of the Church and the public, was totally ignored and blocked out by The Times article, the media in general and those who are concerned with the crucifixes' issue.

When I expressed my disagreement with adultery, homosexuality and same-sex marriages, I did it out of honesty and goodwill. I would be betraying my conviction, faith, mission, Muslims and non-Muslims and deceiving the Maltese public if I said that these practices were safe and proper, securing the welfare of man or pleasing God in any way. These practices are wrong and we will keep advising people to avoid such acts.

In fact, these practices are not accepted neither in Islam nor in Judaism and Christianity. Those who have forgotten, let them re-read their Bible to remember how God dealt with those who committed disobedience and immoral practices. God is not dead. He can interfere where, when and how He wills.

Civilisation is not only measured by its freedoms but also by its moral and ethical values and how it strikes the balance between the welfare of the body and the spirit.

When I read the comments of certain correspondents in I recalled what the people of the prophet Lot, peace be upon him, replied when he told them to abandon homosexuality: "Out of the way! Here is one who came as a foreigner, and would set himself up as a judge. Now we will treat you worse than them" (Genesis 19:9).

"Drive out the followers of Lot from your city, these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure" (Holy Koran 27:56).

Truly, humanity does not change!

Sharia does not consist of criminal laws only but it covers all essential social, economical and political aspects of life like marriage, divorce, inheritance, business, finance and international relations.

We believe in Sharia because it is a part of the Holy Koran, the divine word of God. No true Muslim can deny or alter any Islamic law. Islam is not a supermarket from which we select what we like or what pleases others. It is a matter of belief or disbelief in the perfection of God, the authenticity and validity of the Holy Koran. Sharia is implemented only in countries with Muslim majorities, where governments are also Islamic and which believe in the teachings of Islam and want to put them into practice through democracy and the rule of the people.

For Sharia to succeed, Islam should be practised as a whole because Islam is a comprehensive and complimentary system. It is unjust to cut off the hand of the thief in a society lacking social justice and social security and where people suffer famine and unemployment. It is also unjust, obviously, to apply this law to under-aged children who are not yet old enough to shoulder the responsibility of their deeds or to those who were forced in any way to commit a crime.

The severe Sharia punishments are not an end in themselves but they are means to frighten those who intend to commit a crime and make them refrain from executing their evil intentions. It is a preventive measure rather than a cure. It aims at securing justice and security for the society. These punishments are not applied except after securing all the basic needs for people and securing a just judicial system.

The judges who deal with such cases should do their best to find out the slightest evidence in favour of the accused to avoid the execution of the punishment. Governors or heads of state can also grant special amnesties to condemned persons to give them another chance to amend themselves.

There are certain people in the West who are using the Sharia issue to incite people against Islam. They are trying to frighten people by claiming that Muslims want to implement Sharia in the West. How can Muslims demand Sharia to be implemented in a non-Muslim society? If Muslims could not implement Sharia in Muslim countries because they could not secure its requirements how can they implement it in non-Muslim countries?

I hope that the hot debate on my misunderstood statements lead to more mutual understanding and respect and more adherence to the spiritual and moral values. I hope that it turns our attention to ask ourselves: Where are we vis-à-vis God and his teachings? And in which direction are we going: paradise or hell?

Through my statements, I did not mean to hurt anybody's sentiments. It was only a defensive position to a number of provocative questions. I was simply exerting my right of expression. If my words did hurt anybody, I do heartily apologise.

To those who wronged me and questioned my credibility through newspapers and the internet, I say: Oh God, guide them and forgive them.

The author is Imam at the Paola Islamic Centre.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Times: MEPs undo same-sex marriage proposal; Reason prevailed, compromise found - Busuttil

Thursday, 26th November 2009 by Ivan Camilleri, Brussels

The European Parliament yesterday approved an amendment that effectively quashes a proposal to have same-sex marriages recognised all over the EU, including countries that prohibit such unions.

The amendment, moved by Simon Busuttil on behalf of the European People's Party, avoids a political clash between member states and the European Parliament.

Last-minute negotiations between political groups found the backing of the Socialists and Dr Busuttil's amendment was approved with 487 votes in favour, 122 against and 49 abstentions.

The amendment changes the call made by the Civil Liberties Committee of the EP to insert a paragraph in the so-called Stockholm programme - a five year blueprint plan for justice and home affairs - to ensure that the principle of mutual recognition is applied to same-sex couples in the EU at least in relation to rights relating to freedom of movement.

As it stands, the declaration now provides no new rights to gay and lesbian couples as it simply calls for there not to be any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, something EU legislation already covers.

The text approved by the EP yesterday "calls on member states, without prejudice to national legislations on family law, to ensure freedom of movement to EU citizens and their families, including registered partnerships and marriages, according to articles 2 and 3 of Directive 2004/38/EC, avoiding all kinds of discriminations on all grounds, including sexual orientation".

Dr Busuttil expressed his satisfaction that "reason has prevailed and that a compromise was found".

"We (the EPP) are not in favour of same-sex marriage and, therefore, we could not support the recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in other member states. However, other than this, we are committed to the principle of non-discrimination, including on the basis of discrimination and want to work against the exclusion of persons on this basis," he said.

"I know that this is a sensitive issue for different people with diverging positions on this matter, however, my compromise was reasonable and fair and that is why it found the support of the majority in the Chamber."

However, not all political parties welcomed Dr Busuttil's move as the Liberals, the third largest political group in the EP, criticised this compromise.

Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veld, who is also vice-president of the Civil Liberties Committee, said she was very disappointed that Christian Democrats and Socialists watered down the Liberals' commitment to ensure equal treatment for same-sex couples across the Union.

"As a result, I fear that discrimination will persist," she said.

Same-sex marriages are only legal in four out of the 27 member states, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. The Civil Liberties Committee wanted that marriages between gay or lesbian couples in these four countries should start being recognised by the other 23 member states that do not permit it, including Malta.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

L-Orizzont: Aktar tħassib għall-kummenti tal-Imam

26.11.9 Minn SAMMY SAMMUT

Il-Moviment Graffitti ngħaqad ma’ movimenti oħrajn f’espressjoni ta’ tħassib serju għal kummenti li saru mill-Mexxej Musulman f’Malta, l-Imam Mohamed El Sadi fejn dan, fost dikjarazzjonijiet oħrajn, qabbel iż-żwieġ bejn żewġ persuni tal-istess sess ma’ żwieġ bejn kelb u qattus u fejn tkellem dwar prattiċi inumani biex tissanzjona lil min ikun wettaq ċerti reati.

L-Imam El Sadi għamel dawn il-kummenti waqt li kien qed jieħu sehem fuq il-programm televiżiv “Bondiplus”, li jixxandar fuq l-istazzjon tal-istat lokali, PBS. Fost oħrajn, El Sadi saħaq li, b’konformità tal-Liġi tax-Sharia, il-qtugħ tal-idejn ta’ persuna ħatja ta’ serq huwa “kastig mistħoqq” għax nies bħal dawn ma ħaqqhomx aħjar. Huwa qal ukoll li jaqbel mal-kastigi li jingħataw lil persuni omosesswali, minkejja li f’ċerti pajjiżi Musulmani l-kastig jista’ jinkludi saħansitra għomor il-ħabs u f’ċerti każi anke l-mewt.

L-ewwel persuna li esprimiet l-oppożizzjoni qawwija tagħha għal dawn il-kummenti kien l-Inġinier Patrick Attard, li mhux biss kien l-ewwel kandidat li kkontesta Elezzjoni Ġenerali li ddikjara bil-miftuħ li huwa gay iżda hu magħruf sew għall-ħidma sfiqa tiegħu favur it-tħaris tad-drittijiet fundamentali tal-persuni LGBT.

L-inġinier Attard qal li kien ixxokkjat bil-kummenti li għamel El Sadi meta attribwixxa l-qilla ta’ Alla fid-dinja għall-aċċettazzjoni akbar ta’ persuni gay. Din ma kinitx l-ewwel darba li mexxejja Musulmani taw x’jifhmu li diżastri naturali li seħħew fid-dinja, bħalma kien it-Tsunami, huma riżultat tal-fatt li qed ikun hawn aktar nies li jaċċettaw persuni gay.

Patrick Attard fi stqarrija li ħareġ qal li xtaq jistaqsi lill-Imam jekk jaqbilx mal-qtil ritwali u l-eżekuzzjoni ta’ persuni gay f’ċerti pajjiżi Musulmani, bħal per eżempju t-tgħalliq taż-żewġ żgħażagħ Mahmoud Asgari u Ayaz Marhoni għas-sempliċi raġuni li dawn setgħu kienu persuni gay.

Staqsa wkoll lil El Sadi jekk kienx qiegħed jissuġġerixxi li anke f’Malta persuni gay jibdew jingħataw il-mewt.

L-Inġinier Attard qal li l-Imam għandu jkun grat lejn il-komunità Maltija ta’ bejn 15,000 u 30,000 persuna gay jew lesbjani li bit-taxxi li jħallsu qegħdin jgħinu biex ikunu salvati eluf ta’ persuni Musulmani li qegħdin jaħarbu mit-tbatijiet, sofferenzi u l-gwerer li hemm f’art twelidhom, u biex dawn jingħataw kenn fejn joqogħdu flimkien ma’ ħtiġijiet oħra bażiċi, bħal ikel u xorb. “L-Imam El Sadi għandu jagħmel apolo- ġija lill-persuni kollha gay u lesbjani Maltin u Għawdxin,” saħaq Patrick Attard.

Min-naħa tagħha, il-kelliema ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika għad-Drittijiet Ċivili, Yvonne Evejer qalet li “AD tirrispetta d-dritt ta’ kulħadd li jipprattika t-twemmin reliġjuż tiegħu, iżda qatt ma nistgħu naċċettaw dikjarazzjonijiet simili għal dawk ta’ El Sadi li, apparti li huma kuntrarji għal-liġijiet Maltin, iwasslu biex tinxtered aktar mibgħeda, vjolenza u nuqqas ta’ rispett lejn id-dinjità tal-persuna umana”.

Issa anke l-Moviment Graffitti ħareġ jikkummenta dwar id-dikjarazzjonijiet pubbliċi magħmulin mill-Imam El Sadi. Il-Moviment Graffitti jgħid li ghalkemm għandna nirrispettaw kull twemmin reliġjuż, ir-rispett għandu jiġi wkoll mingħand dawn tal-aħħar lejn kull persuna, irrispettivament mill-orjentazzjoni sesswali tagħha.

“Persuni omosesswali għandhom iħossuhom irrispettati f’kull pajjiż u naqblu wkoll li dawn in-nies għandhom jiġu rikonoxxuti bħala koppji u jgawdu mill-istess drittijiet li jgawdu minn- hom koppji eterosesswali. Nemmnu wkoll li d-drittijiet fundamental tal-bniedem għandhom jgħoddu għal kulħadd, inkluż dawk li jkunu nstabu ħatja ta’ xi reat kriminali,” qal il-Moviment Graf-fitti.

Kompla jgħid li wieħed jifhem li l-kummenti ta’ El Sadi ma jirrappreżentawx lill-Musulmani kollha, bl-istess mod li kummenti omofobiċi li ġieli ntqalu minn rappreżentanti tal-Knisja Kattolika ma jirrappreżentawx lill-Kattoliċi kollha.

Il-Moviment Graffitti esprima wkoll ix-xewqa li fi żmien qrib “naraw liż-żewġ naħat jersqu iktar lejn xulxin u jkun hemm rispett reċiproku u ħidma flimkien għal soċjetà iktar inklussiva.”

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Times: MEPs want same-sex unions recognised across borders
Tuesday, 24th November 2009 by Ivan Camilleri, Brussels

A political clash is looming between EU member states and the European Parliament over a proposal to have same-sex marriages conducted in one member state recognised in others, even where it is illegal.

A parliamentary committee wants to ensure that "the principle of mutual recognition is applied to same-sex couples in the EU - notably married couples, partners or de facto couples - at least in relation to rights relating to freedom of movement".

Same-sex marriages are only legal in four of the 27 member states, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Sweden.

However, under a resolution passed in the Civil Liberties Committee, marriages between gay or lesbian couples would be recognised by the other member states, even if these do not permit such nuptials.

"This means if a gay couple marries in Sweden but resides in Malta, the Maltese authorities will have to grant these EU citizens the same rights as heterosexual couples," an EP official explained.

This would be an amendment to the Stockholm programme - an EU five-year policy plan in the area of Justice and Home Affairs - which MEPs will vote upon tomorrow in plenary.

The largest group in the EP, the European People's Party (EPP), has opposed this amendment but it was still approved by the committee. It is up to tomorrow's plenary session to decide whether to accept it or not.

Sources yesterday told The Times that the parliament "will most probably approve the resolution".

"Although in reality this will not change the present system where issues related to family law are the sole competence of member states, it will send a political message that the EU is moving towards recognising same-sex marriages, even in countries such as Malta where this is illegal," the official said.

When contacted, Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil, the EPP spokesman for the committee, stressed the EPP group was against this amendment.

"I directed the EPP members in the committee to abstain instead of voting in favour of the resolution on the Stockholm programme," Dr Busuttil said.

"I am completely against this amendment and we are conducting talks with the other political groups to try to find a compromise on this delicate issue.

"Recognition of same-sex marriages conducted in certain member states cannot be imposed on other members where this is illegal. The solution I am proposing is this should only be recognised by those countries that already permit such marriages."

The Times is informed that the Maltese government is closely watching the latest developments on this issue. According to EU treaties, the final word on such a decision is up to member states and not the EP.

If accepted by the Parliament, the amendment as inserted in the Stockholm programme would come before the European Council where still resistance would be likely.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

[Note: Dr Simon Busuttil with his comments is now clearly breaking his commitment he made by signing the petition of International Lesbian-Gay Association just before the June MEP elections. See the text of the petition here.

It will be very interesting to see how Mr David Casa will vote since in an interview with the Times he said that the Prime Minister promised the introduction of gay partnership in Malta in this legislation and that HE voted in favour of this motion. See the video
here. Scroll to: 4:38.]

Times: Apology due to gay, lesbian community

Tuesday, 24th November 2009 by Patrick Attard, Naxxar

I was shocked to read (November 19) that the Muslim leader in Malta, Imam Mohamed El Sadi, attributes the wrath of God in the world to the acceptance of gay people. It is not the first time natural disasters are attributed to the increasing acceptance of gay people as was the tsunami which hit Thailand in 2004, which was called God's punishment for homosexuality by some Muslim leaders.

I would like to ask the Imam if he agrees with the ritual murder or execution of gays in the Muslim world - for example, the public hanging of gay teenagers Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni in Iran in 2005. I also would like to ask if he is suggesting that people who are gay should be executed in Malta.

The Imam should be grateful to the 15,000 to 30,000 Maltese gay and lesbian taxpayers who help fund the search-and-rescue, shelter and distributed food to his Muslim brothers and sisters who are fleeing hardship and war from their own Muslim country.

The Imam should issue a clear apology to all Maltese and Gozitan gays and lesbians. The Imam explicitly delivered a message Josef Ratzinger has been hiding in euphemisms for over 23 years.

I hope that the Criminal Code (82A) will be soon amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of groups against which the incitement of hatred is punishable.

I hope that both Alternattiva Demokratika, which boasts that it doesn't only give lip service to the gay minority, and the new Labour LGBT network, which is now facing its first test, will stand up for the people they represent.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

Note: AD issued a press-release which was published one day before this letter:

MaltaStar: Imam should apologise
24.11.9 by Patrick Attard
Your Camera. Your Views.

I was shocked to read that the Muslim leader in Malta, Imam Mohamed El Sadi, attributes the Wrath of God in the world to the acceptance of gay people.

It is not the first time natural disasters are attributed to the increasing acceptance of gay people as was the Tsunami which hit Thailand (26.12.2004) which was called God's punishment for homosexuality by some Muslim leaders.

I would like to ask the Imam if he agrees with the ritual murder or execution of gays in the Muslim world, - for example the hanging of gay teenagers Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni who were publicly hung in Iran on 19.7.2005. I also would like to ask if he is suggesting that people who are gay should be executed in Malta.

The Imam should be grateful to the 15,000 to 30,000 Maltese Gay and Lesbian Tax-payers who help fund the search-and-rescue, shelter and distributed-food to his Muslim brothers and sisters who are fleeing hardship and war from their own Muslim country and being offered temporary assistance and shelter in Malta.

The Imam should issue a clear apology to all Maltese and Gozitan gays and lesbians.

The Imam delivered explicitly a message Josef Ratzinger has been hiding in euphemisms for over 23 years.

I hope that the Criminal Code (82A) will be soon amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of groups against which the incitement of hatred is punishable.

I hope that both Alternattiva Demokratika, which boasts that it doesn't only give lip service to the gay minority and the new Labour LGBT network, which is now facing its first test, will stand up for the people they represent.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar's website.]

Monday, 23 November 2009

Times: Crosses, censors and new Labour [Secularism]
22.11.9 by Christian Peregin

[You can watch the video of the interview here.]

"Events have shown that we are not a secular state, and, I fear, less secular than we used to be" - Dominic Fenech. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier.

[Excerpts of the article]

History professor and former Labour general secretary Dominic Fenech warns his party against losing its soul by "pussyfooting" to pander to voters.


What about the ideological differences between the parties. Do you think there is a distinction between them or is it being blurred?

It is difficult to distinguish in an ideological sense the Labour Party from the Nationalist Party - and it has been difficult for some time because the PN themselves are pretty much lost. I don't know what they stand for anymore except wanting to stay in government. And I think the driving force between both parties nowadays is to stay in government or to achieve government.
In a comment you posted on you said there was too much self-censorship and that the secularisation the party fought for was being undone.

I stand by my words because in recent times there have certainly been events which have shown we are not a secular state, and, I fear, less secular than we used to be.
Give me an example.

Well, there's been a big fuss because two attractive young women went for a photo shoot in a cemetery - as if attractive young women and burial grounds were somehow mutually exclusive. There's been censorship of a particular play... and a student newspaper.

That's the most recent and it involves a student of mine who, I should say, is the kind of student who makes you proud to be an academic. Mark Camilleri risks being sent to jail. He is the editor of a student newspaper which published a story some people thought was obscene, in bad taste or offensive or immoral...

Everybody is free to have their own thoughts, but not everybody is free to punish you for having thoughts which are different to theirs. This is not a big scandalous affair. It is a very mild deviation from what you normally would expect from a student newspaper and it has faced a ban and, maybe more alarmingly, the police have been called in. And maybe actually proceeding in court.

But how does this relate to the Labour Party?

It's a mentality.

What should Labour be doing?

Labour should come out in favour of the student. Labour should ask: is this why we lost two elections back in the 1960s to assert secularisation? So that, in 2009, the chaplain of the University can go up to the Rector and say: 'Hey, what are you going to do about this immoral publication?'

The Labour Party has adopted some stands which have gone against the Church, namely taking a position in favour of divorce and gay rights. How do you reconcile these two differing approaches?

Yes, I'm pleased to know that Joseph Muscat has broached the idea of divorce. But if you ask me if we're going to have divorce in this legislature, then my answer is no, we're not going to have divorce.

What if Dr Muscat becomes Prime Minister?

I think there is a very long way to go to the next election... more than three years.


I think it would depend on how well he would do. But even that is a bit shaky. Because unless a party says it is in favour of divorce, campaigns for it, says why and tells its parliamentary group: look, this is the position of the party and you are expected to follow that position...
So don't you agree with his idea of a free vote?

In theory it's a very democratic way, but in reality you will never get a majority.

Because people within the Labour Party will vote against?

Yes, and I don't see how people in the Nationalist Party are going to vote... or enough of them, at least.

So do you think that those opposing the conservative mainstream are not going far enough?
One of the fights of Mintoff's Labour Party in his early days was to introduce civil marriage. At the time, it was a very big step. It could have lost a certain number of votes but the party in government forged ahead.

There were other issues, like the legalisation of contraceptives, which were illegal before 1971. There were other things, which the Labour Party was able to implement because it had the pro-secularist attitude. We are not against the Church or religion but we are a secularist party and in a secular society people should not have to go through the institutions or norms of the Church in order to do what is legitimate.

It should have followed, that after the introduction of civil marriage we'd have divorce. But what has happened in the past 20 years? Even the law on civil marriage back in the 1980s was whittled down and the role of the Church was brought into civil law.

So, yes, you had a slow build-up of secularism, which is good because, after all, if there is one good thing about joining the EU it is that we may come out of this cocoon of ecclesiastical paternalism. I'm not saying that all the Church and priests are like this but....

There is the controversial issue of crucifixes in classrooms currently being discussed. The Labour Party said secularism does not mean doing away with religious symbols. Do you think it does?
I'm quite indifferent to this. I think it's a foolish issue to begin with. If I go into a lecture room, whether the lecture is a good or bad lecture depends on how prepared I am. Whether there is a crucifix or not is not going to make any difference to my performance or to the students' ability to understand me.

But as somebody who strongly believes in secularism, do crucifixes in classrooms offend you?
They don't offend me but they don't please me. I said I'm indifferent. And if people feel better with it in class, let them feel better. But if secularists are going to be prepared to go along with an icon of the Catholic religion, then the Church and those who support it should be equally respectful of those who do not like to have certain religious overtones to things which should be secular.

So, obviously, if it comes to a question of whether we are going to have a fight in this country for secularism or not, then it will be a free-for-all. And then the secularists are going to have to be against crucifixes.

Including yourself?

I'm indifferent on this particular issue. But I expect that if people are free to have crucifixes and I'm not supposed to feel upset by that, then they should not be upset if someone writes something or puts on a play that offends their morals.

What did you think of the Archbishop's comments on censorship (on the crucifix issue)?

The Archbishop now knows what it means to be censored. I'm against censorship. I wouldn't censor the Archbishop. To be fair, I don't think it's the Archbishop himself. There are members of the clergy who are putting their head up again. And there are people, who may be lay Christians, who can be sometimes more pope-ish than the Pope.

I don't know, for example, whether it was a priest or some bigoted fanatic who went to the police and drew their attention to two undressed mannequins in a Mosta shop window. I mean, is there anything less sexy than a naked mannequin? And this was for a cause (to raise awareness about sex exploitation).

Prof. Dominic Fenech, 58 is a History professor at the University of Malta; Head of Department of History; Dean of the Faculty of Arts; He was the Labour Party general secretary (1977 - 1983)

Times: How the Imam stole my hands

Sunday, 22nd November 2009 by Mark-Anthony Falzon

Where the Inquisition left off, the Imam picked up. Just when we thought we had heard it all, along came Mohammed El Sadi on last week's Bondiplus to tell us it is only natural that thieves should have their hands chopped off.

He was also generous with encores, as befits his smiling and benevolent persona. In an interview carried in Thursday's The Times, the Imam informed us of the 'wrath of God' at things like homosexuality and same-sex marriage. He also said (as reported) that "under Sharia law such crimes may even be punishable by death".

The Imam finds 'Sharia law' sort of agreeable. After all, if the Lord seems to take issue with same-sex marriage rather than, say, African children dying of eminently avoidable diseases, who are we to argue? Off with their groomed heads I say.

It's not the first time the Imam has shared his wisdom with us. In March 2007, for example, he told of - you guessed it - the wrath of God at - yes, yes - homosexuality.

Thankfully, he stopped short of describing what 'Sharia law' would choose to amputate in that case.

Makes me wonder what Heaven must be like, ruled by a divinity perennially furious at thieves and gays and ever-hungry for bloody souvenirs of their sins. It also makes me wonder what our country would be like ruled by men like Mohammed El Sadi.

Not just wonder in fact, but do something to prevent it. Far from one of 'recession of values' and the other nonsense that some politicians talk about, we are actually living in a time of unprecedented freedom and civil liberties. And I don't want the Imam or anyone else to touch that, thank you very much.

The obvious solution is one we come across very often. It goes as follows. The Imam is the voice of Islam in Malta; Muslims are outsiders (as in immigrants) here; the easiest way to get rid of their views is to get rid of them entirely; we must therefore resist the migration of Muslims into Malta.

Lest my readers think I cannonball the heads of infidels across the harbour in my spare time, I rush to add that the above paragraph is nonsense. There are many reasons why xenophobia and/or Islamophobia won't get us anywhere.

First, we must consider to what extent the Imam really represents Muslims in Malta, or anywhere. The answer is ambiguous. Structurally and formally, he certainly does not. Islam doesn't have a catechism or bishops and things. There is one Koran but very many schools of interpretation.

Tangibly, I know for a fact that many Muslims would disagree that thieves should have their hands chopped off. I personally know two Egyptian Muslims who attended the Corradino mosque once and ran a mile.

The argument applies elsewhere. Of late a certain Rajan Zed, who apparently is based in the States, has been sending missives about the (lack of) rights of Hindus in Malta. But then Rajan Zed is quite simply self-appointed. Hindus have lived happily in Malta for over 140 years, and they don't need anyone to tell them how to cope here. All of which warns us of the danger of talking about 'religious/community leaders'.

At the same time, this is rather too easy. There is a sense in which the Imam does represent Muslims in Malta. He certainly enjoys widespread moral legitimacy among them, and he is involved in the running of a school that, by his own saying on Bondiplus, educates children in the values of (his, presumably) Islam. (A terrifying thought that children are being inspired by values such as that 'criminals' - easy isn't it? - should also be amputees, and gays 're-educated' or dead.)

One might also expect, if the Imam is not representative, moderate Muslims publicly to distance themselves from his ideas. Until they do, we can't really be blamed for assuming El Sadi is the voice of Islam in Malta.

Whether or not he is, there are other reasons why the 'xenophobic' paragraph above is misguided. First, it is not true that Muslims are outsiders here - there are many, and counting, Maltese nationals who are actually Muslims. Second, my issue is with the Imam's ideas, not his immigration papers. In sum, El Sadi and whoever else have as much right to live here as I do. There's a second possible way of dealing with the Imam, and that's to silence him - never again to invite him on national television, block his access to newspapers, haul him to court if he persists in speaking his mind, and such. For reasons I explained three weeks ago in my column on Nick Griffin and the BNP, I think this second option is as bad as the first.

Which leaves us with a third solution: politics. The surest and most acceptable way of consigning the Imam's views where they really belong is to engage them politically. This is what The Times did when it invited people to comment on his 'hands-free gays' rant.

I would have expected many more individuals and groups to come out.

This has to do partly with political correctness, partly complacency. On the first, it somehow feels 'not quite right' to contest the Imam. For we're supposed to be multicultural and celebrate diversity no? Hmm.

The biggest pitfall in all this is probably complacency. The belief that is, that respect towards the dignity of criminals and gays (only coupled here because of the case in question) is somehow natural, and that rabid views like the Imam's are temporary aberrations which will just go away. My guess is they won't.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

It-Torċa: Ħaddiema LGBT

22.11.9; minn Geitu Mercieca, Deputat Segretarju Ġenerali, GWU

Wiehed mill-ogħla prinċipji fundamentali huwa li kull persuna titwieled ħielsa bl-istess drittijiet u dinjità. Dan il-prinċipju universali intrinsikament ifisser li ħadd m’għandu jsofri diskriminazzjoni, la fis-soċjetà u wisq anqas fuq il-post tax-xogħol, minħabba razza, twemmin, sess jew orjentazzjoni sesswali.

Fuq dan it-twemmin ukoll hija msejsa d-difiża trejdunjonistika għad-drittijiet tal-bniedem fuq livell ġenerali u d-drittijiet tal-ħaddiem fuq il-post tax-xogħol fil-livell partikolari.

Għalhekk minn dan il-prinċipji joħroġ l-impenn tat-trade unions biex il-postijiet tax-xogħol, fejn ikun hemm rikonoxximent industrijali, dawn ikunu ħielsa minn kull forma ta’ diskriminazzjoni u jkun hemm l-ugwaljanza fir-rispett għad-dinjità umana irrispettivament mill-orjentazzjonijiet sesswali, kultura, razza, sess jew twemmin.

Il-GWU qatt ma qagħdet lura milli tiddiskuti b’mod miftuħ issues soċjali li jaħarqu. Il-GWU qatt ma beżgħet tindirizzahom l-aktar meta dawn ikun hemm min jipprova jew ma jagħtihomx l-importanza meħtieġa, inkella jaħbihom qishom ma jeżitux. Hekk għamlet il-GWU meta biss ftit tax-xhur ilu ħadmet u ħarġet policy paper fuq l-immigranti irregolari.

Dak inhar, u sa ċertu punt anki llum, ħafna huma dawk il-Maltin li qiegħdin juru l-għadab għal dawn il-persuni, għax aktar jinteressahom li juru li dawn l-immigranti irregolari qiegħdin jieħdu x-xogħol tal-Maltin, milli fil-verità joħroġ ir-razziżmu, il-mibegħda u sa ċertu punt l-isfruttament li qed issaltan ġo dawn il-Maltin.

Bħala GWU mill-ewwel għa-rafna li kienet responsabbiltà tagħna li nfehmu li dawn l-immigranti irregolari għandhom drittijiet, u għandhom ikunu rispettati bħal kull uman ieħor jiġi minn liema pajjiż jiġi. Kieku ma konniex kuraġġużi konna nkunu qiegħdin ninkoraġġixxu biex tinħoloq klassi oħra li tkun mistmerra.

U fuq hekk l-aktar li ridna nibnu, ċioè fuq li ma nħallux min jabbuża minn dawn il-persuni meta jħaddmuhom, ma nħallux lil min jiddiskrimina magħhom minħabba l-kulur tal-ġilda tagħhom, kif ukoll biex min iħaddem ma jużahomx għall-interessi tagħhom, biex jagħmel profitti minn ħidmiethom billi jħaddimhom f’kundizzjonijiet prekarji.

Policy paper oħra importanti li wkoll ħdimna għaliha fil-Kungress Nazzjonali f’Ottubru li għadda kienet tinvolvi d-dinja tax-xogħol għall-persuni Leżbjani, Gay, Bisesswali u Transgender (LGBT). Din il-policy paper poġġiet ukoll sfida għall-GWU, għax għalina ma kinitx faċli li nsawru politika bl-iswed fuq l-abjad fuq suġġett daqstant delikat, u li kważi saħansitra għadu kkonsidrat bħala stigma fis-soċjetà tagħna.

Il-GWU fasslet din il-policy paper wara li ġabret informazzjoni utli mingħand persuni LGBT biex b’hekk kienet f’pożizzjoni li tagħti ħjiel tas-sitwazzjoni ta’ dawn il-ħaddiema f’pajjiżna u barra minn xtutna. Barra minn hekk, il-GWU analizzat x’pożizzjoni għandha l-Organizzazzjoni Dinjija tax-Xoghol (ILO) u x’pożizzjoni ħadet s’issa l-Konfederazzjoni Ewropea tat-Trade Unions (ETUC), li tagħha l-GWU hija affiljata, fuq din l-issue.

Ħafna trade unions f’bosta pajjiżi f’dawn l-aħħar snin għamlu fost il-prijoritajiet prinċipali tagħhom il-ġlieda kontra d-diskriminazzjoni fuq bażi ta’ orjentazzjoni sesswali. Infatti sar progress qawwi f’dan ir-rigward f’bosta mill-pajjiżi tal-Unjoni Ewropea fosthom bl-introduzzjoni ta’ leġiżlazzjoni kontra kull forma ta’ diskriminazzjoni li espliċitament tinkludi wkoll lil persuni ta’ kwalunkwe orjentazzjoni sesswali.

Saru wkoll liġijiet li llegalizzaw iż-żwieġ jew partnership bejn żewġ persuni tal-istess sess, bl-istess drittijiet u rikonoxximent ta’ żwieġ normali kif ukoll l-aċċettazzjoni ta’ dawn il-persuni f’pożizzjonijiet ta’ tmexxija, fosthom fil-politika, bħala senior management u fit-tmexxejja ta’ trade unions.

F’pajjiżna, bħal f’kull pajjiż ieħor, minkejja li bdejna nirrikonoxxu u nifhmu l-ħtieġa ta’ miżuri li jikkumbattu d-diżugwaljanzi, sa anki liġijiet għandna li jipprojbixxu d-diskriminazzjoni f’kull forma tagħha, madankollu d-diskriminazzjoni għadha prevalenti, anke jekk b’mod sottili, f’diversi oqsma.

Fil-fatt persuni b’orjentazzjoni sesswali għadhom mhux biss ikunu diskriminati iżda anke żżuffjettati u abbużati verbalment u fiżikament fuq il-postijiet tax-xogħol u anke fil-ħajja soċjali tagħhom.

F’laqgħa li bħala Union sejjaħna għall-ewwel working group għall-ħaddiema LGBT, ħareg ċar kemm għad hawn persuni li jippreferu jibqgħu jaħbu l-orjentazzjoni sesswali tagħhom milli joħorġu fil-beraħ u juru l-inklinazzjoni vera tagħhom minħabba li jemmnu li l-poplu, anke l-familji tagħhom stess, għadhom mhux lesti li jaċċettawhom kif inhuma.

Il-policy paper tal-GWU fuq persuni LGBTs intlaqgħet b’sodisfazzjon minn għadd ta’ organizzazzjonijiet, anke internazzjonali, kif ukoll ingħatat pubbliċità għax hija l-ewwel policy paper minn trade union Maltija tax-xorta tagħha.

Tant il-policy paper intlaqgħet tajjeb anke barra minn Malta li l-GWU kienet mistiedna mill-Ministeru tal-Iżvezja biex rappreżentant tal-GWU jagħmel preżentazzjoni fuqha bħala best-practice, xi ħaġa li tikkonferma kemm veru l-GWU dejjem tkun fuq quddiem biex tiġġieled l-istigmi u ‘tabelli oddjużi’ li għadhom jeżistu f’pajjiżna.

Il-GWU dejjem ħadmet u se tibqa’ taħdem biex dawn il-‘ħitan’ jitkissru fl-interess tal-persuni milquta. Il-GWU se tkompli taħdem favur LGBT u mal-working group is-sena d-dieħla ttella’ konferenza nazzjonali biex flimkien ma’ nies esperti kif ukoll ma’ membri parlamentari miż-żewġ naħat tal-kamra tidentifika diffikultajiet li jiltaqgħu magħhom il-ħaddiema LGBTs.

Il-GWU beħsiebha taħdem ukoll biex tqajjem diskussjoni nazzjonali fuq x’għandu jsir f’pajjiżna b’mod konkret u mingħajr dewmien biex dawn il-problemi jkunu identifikati u indirizzati. Il-GWU temmen f’dak li tgħid u bil-mezzi tagħha se tgħin biex id-dinjità ta’ dawn il-persuni tkun imħarsa.

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