Islam’s Claim on Spain

Category: Articles, Europe, Society | Topic: granada, islam | Views: 16,806

Across a valley of fragrant cedars and orange trees, worshipers at the pristine Great Mosque of Granada look out at the Alhambra, the 700-year-old citadel and monument to the heyday of Islamic glory. 

Granada’s Muslims chose the hilltop location precisely with the view, and its unmistakable symbolism, in mind. 

It took them more than 20 years to build the mosque, the first erected here in half a millennium, after they conquered the objections of city leaders and agreed, ultimately, to keep the minaret shorter than the steeple on the Catholic Iglesia de San Nicolas next door.

Cloistered nuns on the other side of the mosque added a few feet to the wall enclosing their convent, as if to say they wanted neither to be seen nor to see.

Many of Spain’s Muslims long for an Islamic revival to reclaim their legendary history, and inaugurating the Great Mosque last year was the most visible gesture. But horrific bombings by Muslim extremists that killed nearly 200 people in Madrid on March 11 have forced Spain’s Muslims and non-Muslims to reassess their relationship, and turned historical assumptions on their head.

“We are a people trying to return to our roots,” said Anwar Gonzalez, 34, a Granada native who converted to Islam 17 years ago. “But it’s a bad time to be a Muslim.”

Spain has a long, rich and complex history interwoven with the Muslim and Arab world, from its position as the center of Islamic Europe in the last millennium to today’s confrontation with a vast influx of Muslim immigrants.

For more than seven centuries of Moorish rule, “Al Andalus,” or Andalusia, was governed by Muslim caliphs who oversaw a splendid flourishing of art, architecture and learning that ended when Granada fell to Christian monarchs Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand in 1492.

Muslims were expelled or exterminated in the Inquisition that followed, but the legacy of the Moors is seen throughout Andalusia, Spain’s southern tier, in its language, palaces like the Alhambra, and food.

Unfortunately for Spain’s Muslims, the militants who swear loyalty to Osama bin Laden are history buffs too. In claiming responsibility for the March bombings, they cited the loss of “Al Andalus” as motivation. 

“We will continue our jihad until martyrdom in the land of Tarik Ben Ziyad,” they said in a communique issued after the massacre, alluding to the Moorish warrior and original Islamic conqueror of the Iberian peninsula.

Spain today, like most of Europe, is struggling with ways to accommodate its fast-growing Muslim community while keeping tabs on those who might turn to radical violence.

Converts like Gonzalez are a small percentage of the nearly 1 million Muslims believed to be living in Spain – a number that has probably doubled in the last decade. The vast majority of the Muslims are immigrants – mostly from Morocco, frequently on the margins of society and often at odds with native-born Muslims. Most of the suspects arrested in the March attacks that tore apart commuter trains in the morning rush hour were Moroccan.

A relatively homogenous society ever since the 15th century expulsions, Spain has far fewer Muslims than France or Germany. Yet only in Spain is the debate fraught with such mythology and deep-rooted cultural echoes.

Spaniards sometimes refer to Arabs, derogatorily, as Moors. And it doesn’t help that the late dictator Francisco Franco rose to power on the back of Moroccan troops whom he used to launch the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

In Granada, the old Moorish hamlet of Albaicin, now a gentrified neighborhood of red-tile roofs and white-washed villas, spills down the hill from the Great Mosque. It could almost pass for a town on the West Bank or in Morocco, if perhaps a little more picturesque.

The narrow, winding streets are full of teashops, butchers and bakeries selling baklava and kenafa, a fresh soft cheese. Locals greet each other with “As-Salaam Alaikum,” and, in October, signs in stores wished a “Feliz Ramadan” to passersby.

At the University of Granada, it is not uncommon to see a woman in a hijab, the Muslim head scarf. In the pharmacology school, about 40% of the 2,100-member student body is from Arab or Muslim countries, according to the student association.

Moroccan student Amal Benyaich, a 20-year-old sophomore, said she generally feels at home in Granada but has occasionally endured insults shouted in public, especially after the bombings. 

“How can your people do this?” someone demanded of her. 

“Am I a terrorist?” she responded.

“I want them to understand what Islam is,” said Benyaich, wearing a white hijab, long skirt and velvety red sweatshirt. “Terrorism is not a specific religion.” 

Spain is confronting the fact that a growing number of Muslim immigrants, who once entered the country only to move on, or came to work and then returned to their home country, have now become a permanent fixture. Spain’s low birth rate has widened the need for immigrant labor, and an underground network has made it easier for foreign workers to stay. 

“Before, Muslims were guests who would leave. Today Islam is among us,” said Riay Tatari Bakri, the Syrian-born imam at Madrid’s Abu Bakr mosque, one of the places of worship attended by the bombing suspects.

For the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the challenge is how to integrate these residents.

Elected three days after the bombings, the government has cast itself in the role of reconciling the West with Islam, and Zapatero, in a major speech to the United Nations, advocated an “alliance of civilizations” to prevent escalating conflict.

The prime minister’s government is negotiating with two major Spanish Islamic organizations in an attempt to integrate Muslims into mainstream society as a way to prevent radicalization and reduce the alienation that feeds extremism and violence.


“Marginalization is a very dangerous thing,” Luis Lopez Guerra, the senior Justice Ministry official in charge of religious affairs, said in an interview in Madrid.

“If you have people poor and without work, you run the risk of them feeling alone and discriminated against, alienated from the values of the rest of society,” Lopez Guerra said. “Police measures alone can’t solve this.”

And so, in a country where the Roman Catholic Church wields enormous power, the government has established a $4-million fund for three “minority” religions – Islam, Judaism and Protestantism – and scrapped a previous administration’s plans to make the Catholic curriculum mandatory in public schools.

Among other, controversial recommendations, the government wants to require all mosques to register with the state. Also under discussion is a plan to license imams, supported by several Muslim groups who complain that too many clerics are foreigners who are unable to speak Spanish, and that Saudi Arabia wields excessive influence over Spain’s mosques. 

The tension between Spain’s non-Muslims and Muslims, both immigrant and native-born, remains raw. Although incidents of overt retaliation against Muslims are rare, many Muslims feel they are, in the words of Gonzalez, the convert, in the eye of the hurricane.

Like the society around them, Muslims in Spain are torn over questions of assimilation versus cultural identity. The community is, moreover, fractured along generational and ideological lines. Then there are the differences between immigrants and native-born Muslims, most of whom are converts. 

In Granada, the onetime seat of Moorish rule, where many Muslims identify themselves as Andalusians first, then as Spaniards, a number of native-born Muslims say they feel a duty to present what they describe as the moderate face of their religion and to promote a form of “European Islam” that is tolerant and democratic.

“That’s our struggle: to achieve a moderate balance against those extremists who are incapable of living in this society as Muslims,” said Abdelkarim Carrasco, a real estate broker and president of the Federation of Spanish Islamic Entities, one of two major Spanish Islamic organizations negotiating with the Zapatero government.

Carrasco, 56, converted to Islam when he was 30 and moved to Granada from Seville two years later.

The Andalusian cities of Granada, Seville and Cordoba saw a wave of Islamic conversions in the 1960s and ’70s spearheaded by the Sufi Murabitun sect led by Ian Dallas, a controversial Scotsman, and joined by hippies in search of spiritual meaning. A later conversion movement evolved, independent of the influence of the Murabitun, which has been attacked as anti-Semitic.

Carrasco, whose passport retains his given name of Antonio, not Abdelkarim, said Spain’s Islamic past has made it more difficult, not easier, for contemporary Spain to accept Muslim citizens.

“It is easier to be a Muslim in Munich than in Granada,” he said. “In Germany it’s still something colder, new and distant. Here it is too close. You scratch the surface of a Spaniard, and the other [identity] comes out.”

At the Great Mosque, built with money from the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, exquisite cobalt blue and teal green tiles, patterned after those found in the Alhambra, frame the ablution fountains. Silk carpets and teak doors decorate the compact house of worship, which is already attracting tourists. 

Mosque member Mohammed Jairudin, 64, a silver-haired actor who converted to Islam 21 years ago, told of the legal hurdles and neighborhood resistance overcome to finally erect the mosque. Muslims, he said, have to live within the existing order because it is God’s will.

“You are part of the system, or you leave,” he said, seated in the mosque’s garden of rosebushes and jasmine, overlooking that breathtaking view that sweeps northward to the Sierra Nevada. “I pay my taxes. I go to the mosque. No one bothers me. I do things my way, but respecting where I am.”

It is not clear, however, that the group behind the mosque, followers of the Murabitun movement, shares that moderate sentiment. The president of the mosque foundation, Malik Ruiz, calls himself the Emir of Spain and has said Granada will return to its “natural origin” – Islam – after a 500-year interruption.

Mosque supporters say they are not attempting to launch the reconquest of Al Andalus but want to show that Islam is not an alien faith.

“This country,” Jairudin said, “has a debt to its Muslims: to recognize history.”

Source: LA Times


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  1. Asalam alaikum,

    am so happy to see this artical.inshallah soon ill go to spain with my family in the south coast and i was wondering about muslims there and masjids + islamic fcilities. are there any more articals bout spain and muslims there today?

    barak Allah feek.

    fee aman Allah, salam alaikum.

  2. It is irritating when you see whoever talking about the history of Spain. not only the jewish or the muslims who were genocide there, also the protestan christians. I still will not reach the level to ask “why your people did this?” to the spaniards. I need first to tell the catholic church and their divinity: “why you people who claim divinity, and claim jesus taught you love, did what you did? and why you apologized to jewish and protestan but not to muslims?”. did jesus ask you to hate people when they convert to Islam? or you are preprogramed kids to hate Islam and ready to deny Jesus teaching for that.

  3. Islamic civilisation had spread throughout the world centuties ago because of its ability to absorbed into local cultures that were not contravening to its teachings. However the downfall of islamic governments in most part of the world especially Spain because of internal bickering among the rulers and neglecting the teachings of the faith. I hope with the understanding of Islam by the west and the search of lost identities by muslims everywhere, the new glory of islamic civilisations can be created with the good cultures of each communities be absorb into it. May Allah gives us guidence to achieve this. Ameen.

  4. I come from a 4th generation old jewish sephardic family from Andulusia. My great-great grandfather Edward Lopez came to North America during the Spanish Inquisition. I converted to Islam nearly seven years ago and I find this article a bit irritating. My relatives some of her were burned alive in their homes by the visigoths (catholic christians) lived peacefully with the Muslims and other religions alike for over 800 years. “How can your people do this?” I would ask the same question of “my people” the Isrealis who have been murdering muslims, namely arabs, for the last quarter century. The worst form of racism is the when the victim of racism, himself becomes the racist. God help us all! ameen.

  5. The heading of this article seems to be derogatory & exciting. If we are really in search of Andalus golden age, we should dig into the positive aspects of the history which enabled Muslims to rule/serve this region for such a long period. We should analyse the causes which turned the coin upside down. Building some beautiful mosques and roaming in the streets with ‘Caps’ & Chogas, enjoying ‘Kabaab’ & ‘Tikkies’, giving a romantic colour to the society, these were the real cause of downfall of Muslims, rather than, some glorious achievements. I would like to quote a stanza of a great Indian Islamic philospher/poet ‘Iqbal’, “Sabaq parh Phir Sadaquat ka, Shuja-at ka, Adaalat ka. Liya jayega tumse kaam duniya ki imamat ka”. We should empower ouselves with Islamic spirit(based on Quran & sunnah) with all the modern technology. We should have the courage to serv the humanity rather than tease the opponents. While going through the articles we should involve our wisdom and passon rather than being flooded with immotions. May Allah help us – sarfaraz

  6. Allow me put it this way. To reward the people of Spain for their compassion following the bombings in Madrid by proclaiming yourself to be their king sounds magnoon. Sorry.


  7. The expression “Emir of Spain” is already turning up at various Islamophobic websites. For example, try googling: “emir of spain” “malik ruiz”. Its propaganda value for those of the “Crusader persuasion” seems way too easy to underestimate. For example, try contemplating “European Islam Shows Its Teeth”.

    If this brother really were the Emir of Spain then he would have seemingly received Sheikh Osama’s endorsement for that position. And thus, he would not have publicly indicated the fact.

    If this brother really meant what the article reported him as saying then in my opinion he would seem to be mentally unstable. And thus, he would not be the emir (president) of his local mosque – which he is reported, elsewhere, as being.

    Seemingly, this emir was either quoted out of context (for instance, perhaps he was “waxing poetic” or merely joking) or the author was in some way in error. Regardless, my thinking is that this “Emir of Spain” business REALLY needs to be addressed publicly, plainly, and preferably sooner than later.


  8. I pray for Spain and the Spanish people to recognize their Islamic roots. Imagining a new Muslim Spain would be a far fetched dream, but a strong Islamic identity in Spain would be of great progress in the Islamic thought. Islam needs new blood, fresh thoughts and a right direction. As long as a Muslim comunity cannot come with a vial example of Modern Times Islam, Muslims all over the world will be fragmented and likely to take the devil as advocate and commit actions that are condemned by the world community. Spain would be alongside with the New World the countries that would be hosts to progressive Islamism and a new Islamic culture of the West. By Islamic culture I mean just that and not the alteration of the faith. To be clearer, we have Turkish, Syrian, Iranian, Pakistani, Malesian, etc., Islamic cultures, why not having a Spanish, American or Canadian as well? This thought is not one that coerces the change in the Spanish government from secular or Catholic to an Islamic state. There are examples of multireligious countries that survive and have a fair representation of all. This could be achieved only if the rest of the world would stop considering the Muslims as ET’s(extra terrestrials) and start recognizing every Muslim as their human fellow brother, sons of one planet and sharing in one destiny. If you think about, is there anyone honestly hoping to inherit the Hell rather than Paradise? As a prayer in the Quran says:”O, God, grant me good in this life and likewise in the hereafter.” Muslim nations were granted good by God, but the envy and interests of the Imperialist West made them destitute and poor. God’s wisdom is beyond man’s perception, in vain fundamentalist Christians tried to figure God or Jesus out, great will be their suprise in the hereafter when they will realize that what they inherited was not what they hoped for! That’s true with all of us. None of us has a booked ticket to God’s Paradise.

    Peace to all!

  9. It is not surprising to read the unfortunate downfall of the Muslim rule in spain, because we are convinced and are told over and over again both in the Holy Quran (ALLAH`s Kalaam) and the AHAADEETH that If we stick to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Our Noble Prophet Muhammed(May ALLAH`S peace and blessings be upon him,his family and his followers till the day of reckoning) we will not be overcome; of course,every muslim and the muslims in that time knew it very well,but they were unfortunately overpowered by `shaytaan`,satan(the accursed) causing fitna in their unity,brother/sisterhood.Of course,ALLAH SubhanaHU Wata`aalaa, never breaks HIS promise.So the Muslims were overwhelmed by this Dunya` thereby neglecting ALLAH`s convenant,aakhira` and the beautiful example of Our noble prophet Muhammed(pbuh).Had the Muslims stayed united,resolute and firmly faithful as they were prior to their weakness in EEMAAN they would have remained the sole power and ALLAH SubhanaHU wata`aalaa would give them victory in every aspect of their endeavours.But,care must be taken not only to blame our previous brethern for their shortcomings; the present-day muslims are doing far greater zunuub,sins and shortcomings than our former brothers/sisters.ALLAH knows best.ALLAH`s promise continues to remain true and waiting someone to benefit from it.This applies to the present-day muslims and they are the ones whom ALLAH,the AL-mighty,ALL-knowing and ALL-powerful wants to return to ALLAH and seek the benefit if they are to overcome these abhorrent humiliations,oppressions,fittans`,killings and so on.ALLAH loves HIS slaves and wants them to be grateful to HIM and be truthful to their convenants with ALLAH.`When ever ALLAH decrees a thing,HE only says BE! to it and it is`..ALLAH HAS THE POWER OVER ALL THINGS AND ALLAH KNOWS BEST.

  10. This message is for all those who sign in and post notes under various pseudonyms. Don’t bother if you cannot be truthful asto your identities.

    The only disease that is acceptable ( evn if it gets to the point of being compulsive/obsessive is compulsive) in worship of GOd or in doing good

    for humanity.

    So please get into real discussions, not virtual ones.

  11. Morgan Freeman was a Moor in ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’

    In that movie his name was Azim ibn Bashir who in my opinion was the real hero.

    The movie took place during the “crusade era” where the MUSLIMS went toe to toe whith “christians” and won the vast majority of the battles.

    The interesting point about this movie was that it answered the questioned to what race the MOORS were.

    Black African/Arab!!!

    Why else would they Morgan Freeman(a Blackman) in that role.

    Where ever ISLAM is practiced correctly race is never a factor but when the satanic/racist and un-grateful european colonialism snaked it way around the world it lied about who was responsible for the glory of ANDALUS(Spain)and the fact that AFRICAN MUSLIM MOORS are the true bearers of the so-called “European reinassance.”

    Laurence Fishburne played a MOOR in ‘OTHELLO’.

    Sidney Poirtier played a Muslim Moor in the 1964 classic’The Long Ships’was a Muslim King and his name was Ali Mansoor.

    Please read the book ‘Golden age of the Moors’ by Ivan Van Sertima it goes into precise detail about the rise and fall of this great historic Afro/Arab civilization.

  12. Don’t let us forget that the islamic caliphates lost Spain due to inner conflicts, miss-management, etc. So instead of talking about reclaiming Spain after 500 years we should rather analyse the situation 500 years ago and learn to overcome these problems which are the same problems that the ummah and islamic states face nowadays.