Spanish Muslims ruled the Mediterranean Christian island of Malta from 870 to 1091 CE. The Normans took the island from Muslims but allowed them to remain subjects of the new rulers, and Arabic became their common language. In 1224 Frederick II, responding to religious uprisings in Sicily, expelled all Muslims from the island. During the reign of Charles II of Naples (1254-1309) the Muslim inhabitants were exiled or sold into slavery, with many finding asylum in Albania. All mosques were destroyed or converted to churches.
In 869 CE, Ahmad bin Umar, an Arab North African Muslim prince, occupied Malta for a short period before his forces were expelled. Next year a larger Muslim army under the command of Muhammad ibn Hafagab, the Arab Governor of Islamic State of Sicily invaded island of Malta at the request of its Catholic inhabitants who were sick of Christian Byzantine occupation of their homeland.
Maxime Robinson (died 2004), a French Marxist author of several critical books on Islam, in his book The Arabs, claimed that the current Maltese, being descendants of Arabs, are Semite people. His article Israël, fait colonial? (Israel: a colonial reality?), published in the special issue of Les Temps Modernes devoted to the debate sparked by the June 1967 war, was an essential contribution to defining a critique of Zionism from the left.
The 220-year of Muslim rule left a lasting effect on the country’s way of life. In this period of Malta’s history, the islands known under three names: Malitah – the island’s Roman name – Ghawdex and Chemmuna, enjoyed an unparalleled age of economic affluence, becoming a land of freedom and prosperity for the rest of Europe passing through its Dark Age.
Besides the many economic benefits the Arabs brought to the islands, the advanced culture they carried with them greatly influenced all other aspects of Maltese life. They were tolerant rulers whereChristians and Muslims lived in relatively harmony –an important achievement in that epoch of worldhistory. Under the Muslims, known to the Europeans at that time as Moors, the Maltese had their own assembly called gemgha (Arabic jam’iya – anassociation) composed of both Christians and Muslims.
Several Maltese towns still carries their Arabic names. Since the fall of Muslim rule, Maltese Catholic Church has copied many Islamic rituals. The church bells rings daily five times inviting Catholics to pray like the Islamic Adhan (call for prayer)around the world for the last 1400 years. Islamic month of fasting, Ramadhan, has been transformed by Maltese to Randan, meaning Lent, the Arabic Insha Allah (Allah Willing) is Maltese Jekk Alla Rieda – and like practicing Muslims who begins everything with Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem (In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, Merciful), Maltese begin their day by saying Ave Maria.
Malta with 400,000 population, is home to 6,000 Muslims mostly Maltese converts. There is only one mosque on the island which was built in 1978 by the World Islamic Call Society, established by late Libyan leader Qaddafi in Tripoli in 1972.
Mario Farrugia Borg, a Muslim revert, became the first Maltese to represent his country in the European Parliament.