The Paola mosque, which has become too small to cater for the Muslim community in Malta. Photo: Jonathan BorgThe Paola mosque, which has become too small to cater for the Muslim community in Malta. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Imam Mohammad Elsadi denied speculation that he is testing the waters on the possibility of setting up an Islamic party with the aim of having the first Muslim MP in five years’ time.

The head of the Maltese Muslim community issued the denial when the Times of Malta sought clarification regarding a Facebook post in which he urged Muslim residents with the right to vote to furnish him with their personal details.

Mr Elsadi insisted the “project” was aimed to determine the strength of the Muslim community for “lobbying purposes”.

In his post, uploaded last Saturday, the Imam said an exercise was being carried out to have an accurate picture of the “exact” number of eligible Maltese Muslim voters, “to be used for the common good of the Muslim community”.

He urged local Muslims to supply their names, ID card numbers and electoral district registrations. He also asked for the particulars of those under 18. The information could be sent through mobile applications like Viber and WhatsApp, he said.

In another Facebook post, Mr Elsadi thanked his followers for the response, saying he already had enough information to start the “project”.

The absence of details, coupled with the Imam’s recent remarks in favour of having at least one Muslim MP representing his community, gave rise to talk that a new Islamic party could be in the pipeline.

This is for our own information. Politicians ask us about numbers, but we have no accurate ones

He raised the idea of a Muslim MP within the wider debate of introducing female quotas to have more balanced gender representation in the House of Representatives. Mr Elsadi told TVM news last week that under the existing electoral system, it was practically impossible to have a Muslim MP. He therefore called for legislators to consider quotas for religious communities.

Photo: Facebook/Mohammed ElsadiPhoto: Facebook/Mohammed Elsadi

However, when asked to elaborate by this newspaper, the Imam laughed off speculation that he was mulling over the formation of an Islamic party. “This is just for our own information. There are many politicians and journalists who ask us about the number of Muslim voters in Malta, but we have no accurate statistics,” he said, adding such data would be useful for “lobbying purposes”.

“We have no plans for setting up a political party,” he insisted.

In recent years, the Muslim community has been lobbying for the opening of more places of worship, given that the Paola mosque has become too small to cater for its needs.

The debate has also fuelled controversy amid harsh objections to setting up makeshift mosques in the heart of residential areas like Buġibba and Sliema.

Mr Elsadi said there are other issues that the Muslim community wanted to raise awareness about. “This will help us to attain our needs, not only in terms of places of worship but also on issues like education,” he said.

A few months ago, controversy raged when the Imam called for the introduction of Islam in government schools following the closure of the Mariam Al Batool school, next to the Paola mosque, due to a lack of funds.

Unofficial estimates put the number of Muslims in Malta between 20,000 and 30,000. However, those who have the right to vote are believed to be much less.

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