European Union Agency “takes note” of Hindus’ concern on religious equality in Malta

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has “taken note” of Hindus’ concern about equality of religions in Malta.

In a response to the communiqué of Bhavna Shinde of Forum for Hindu Awakening, FRA wrote: Thank you very much for drawing our attention to the Maltese Criminal Code, which you report as making one liable to imprisonment up to 6 months for publicly vilifying "Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion", while committing such an act against "any cult tolerated by law" makes one liable to imprisonment only up to 3 months. The Fundamental Rights Agency does investigate issues such as the ones you mentioned, as part of our data collection.  We have taken note of your concern and, if applicable, we will report in next year's annual report.

On this issue, Hindus recently approached various bodies of European Union (EU), Council of Europe, European Parliament; European and Malta Ombudsman; Malta President and other government offices; and even Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta urging them to “ensure that Malta treats all religions and denominations equally in front of the law”.

Meanwhile, in the recent past, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed and Rabbi Jonathan B. Freirich, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada and California in USA, in a statement on this issue, said that it seemed to imply that except Roman Catholic, other religions and denominations including Hinduism and Judaism were just one of the cults in the eyes of Malta.

Rajan Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, and Rabbi Freirich, argued that it was perturbing to note that a country of Europe, which prided itself for its human rights initiatives, apparently treated crimes against religious sentiment of “other” religions/denominations as less serious than against majority religion and described religions/denominations other than majority religion as cults.

Maltese islands were first settled reportedly in 5,200 BCE. Few European countries have such concentrated architecture, history, and beaches in so small an area as Malta. An advisory body of the EU, Vienna (Austria) based FRA focuses on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU and its 27 Member States (which includes Malta). Morten Kjaerum (Denmark) is the Director while Ilze Brands Kehris (Latvia) is Executive Board Chairperson.