This is an opinion article that links the Al Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity) organization with the presence of Islamic radicalism in Murcia. The imam that was recently accused of sexually abusing up to five underage girls in El Algar, is in reality a spy with the Spanish intelligence service (CNI). Allegedly, this man was working as a spy for the CNI who were investigating the presence of radical groups in the Muslim community. The author accuses Al Adl Wal Ihsane of promoting amongst their members the Islamic invasion of Spain “through the womb”. This supposed strategy of invasion consists in marrying and having children with Spanish women. Al Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity or Justice et Bienfaisance, in french) is a Moroccan Islamist association, founded by Cheikh Abdesslam Yassine, critical of the Moroccan monarchy and government. The author describes the supposed relationship between Al Adl Wal Ihsane members and Islamic terrorism.
According to a recent study by the research institute IMAS, 54 percent of Austrians believe that Islam is a “danger to the West.” Furthermore, those questioned for the study increasingly have the feeling that they cannot speak about such views in public. The study was commissioned by the International Institute for Liberal Politics, and has been made exclusively available to Die Presse.
The study found that only 4 percent would be comfortable if a family member married a Muslim, while this was in fact already the case for 3 percent, and much more common in Vienna. The minaret question was also included, with 59 percent “rather against,” while 51 percent responded that the construction of mosques in general as well as the wearing of Islamic headscarves should be prohibited.
72 percent of Austrians criticized the lack of willingness of Muslims to integrate into Austria society (Green Party supporters were the exception, at 38 percent), and 61 percent agreed that “Austria is a Christian country and should remain so.” 42 percent went further, opining that “the less foreigners, the better.” Not surprisingly, the followers of the FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) were most supportive (76 percent), while this radical view was also shared by 39 percent of Socialist (SPÖ) supporters and 37 percent of Christian Democrats (ÖVP).
Only Green Party supporters went against this trend. While merely one out of every fourteen Green supporters was opposed to the construction of minarets, only approximately a quarter believed that Austria should remain a Christian country. In addition, almost half of the Green supporters believe that immigration is an economic and social benefit for Austria, a view shared by only 15 percent of Socialists, 16 percent of Christian Democrats, and merely 5 percent of the FPÖ-BZÖ camp.
The study also found a rise of 10 percent (from 14 percent to 24 percent) of those who believe that it is better not to speak of such topics in public, leading the IMAS-researchers to conclude that there is are “flagrant contradictions between public and private opinions.”
A large majority (71 percent) believe Islam to be incompatible with Western ideas of democracy, freedom, and tolerance. Erich Reiter, who commissioned the study and is director of the Institute for Liberal Politics, stated that “from a liberal perspective Islam is perceived as a threat for our society. Politicians should take this seriously and react accordingly.”
Approximately 60 percent of respondents said they believed either in a biblical God (25 percent) or in a “spiritual power above us” (34%). However, when it comes to children’s education Christian beliefs come in next to last (followed only by “European ethos”). The most important values to promote in education were “independent thinking and acting,” reflecting as well the self-identification of the majority of those polled, who counted themselves among “people, for whom freedom and independence have great importance” (63 percent).
This article introduces us to Sara and Fzilat: two sisters born and raised in Zurich, who live according to the Qur’an, wear a headscarf and attend the University of Zurich. Pakistan, the land of their parents, they barely know – their homeland is Switzerland.
Neither one of the girls is afraid to speak about their religion, or the wearing of a headscarf, while surrounded by other students. Fzilat explains that she began wearing hers at the age of 14, and that her mother had no influence on the decision: “Back then in secondary school I just thought, it’s about time for it.” Though she has covered her entire face on certain occasions, in Zurich, at the university or on the ski slopes she would not, as it simply does not fit. According to her, that is also in accordance with the Qur’an.
Sara, seven years the elder, runs off quickly to the bathroom to switch from an azure headscarf to a turquoise one for the photo shoot. “She has scarves in every color,” says Fzilat jokingly. Sara is what is generally called a “working student”: while majoring in English and minoring in pedagogy and Russian, she worked as an English teacher for large companies and accompanied clients during language trips. Though she stills lives at home, she covers all her other costs.
How is it, studying with a headscarf? “No problem,” they answer in choir. A few looks every now and then, but nothing compared to “outside,” says Fzilat. Sara tells a story of how once while visiting an elementary school as an English teacher, a teacher told Sara to sit next to her and said: “This is what a Muslim looks like.” In the teachers’ room people would switch their accent and ask her “what are you looking for?” She laughs while telling these stories – moments to encourage some indirect awareness training, she says, while assuring that she breaks the ice quickly each time.
Her sister Fzilat would have liked to become an elementary school teacher. Following high school she was accepted into a faculty of pedagogy and began along with two other headscarf-wearing women. “That’s when the knife was put to my throat, so to speak.” While she was finishing a compulsory internship, the father of one of her students threatened to get the press and politics involved, because he did not want a Muslim teaching his son. The school administration forced Fzilat to remove her headscarf while teaching, but it made her feel uncomfortable. After hours of discussion with those involved, she ultimately decided to leave pedagogy altogether after three months. Since that time only one of the three Muslims women has continued in pedagogy. At the faculty the rules are clear: studying with a headscarf is allowed. The transfer to the classroom, however, is full of hurdles.
Oppression of women, forced marriage, holy war – for Sara, none of this fits with her understanding of Islam. “Islam also means freedom,” says Fzilat. The prophet Mohammed said that women should cover their beauty; however, he did want for women to be able to work. “That’s why the eyes, hands, and feet need to stay uncovered,” she says. The sisters pray numerous times daily, go to the mosque on Fridays and attend the monthly meetings of the community. They also find it self-evident that their parents will be involved in the choice of their future husband (most likely a Muslim from the community). “My parents know me the best,” says Fzilat.
And what do the sisters do to try and remedy all these misunderstandings about Islam? Sara’s method is through personal encounters. She is involved in interreligious dialogue across Switzerland. “My dream is to give public talks on Islam throughout all of Switzerland,” she says.
This article in the the Guardian profiles Rachida Dati (b. 1965), former French justice minister, which she stepped down from in May 2009. She has come under scrutiny for her fashion sense and as a single mother of Algerian-origin. She was the second of 12 children born to north African immigrant parents, neither of whom could read or write, and yet by the time she was 41, she occupied one of the most senior roles in government as President Sarkozy’s justice minister, the first woman of Arab descent to be given a key ministerial position in the French cabinet. At 44, she is now a single mother to a one-year-old daughter, a member of the European parliament and the mayor of the 7th arrondissement in Paris. Dati believes the criticism she faces springs from class resentment more than anything else.
Dati is unequivocal in her support for banning the burka in public institutions, an issue currently being debated in France. “When you are part of a society, the first foundation of this social contract is trust,” she says. “To be totally hidden, to not show one’s face, is a challenge to that trust and one cannot construct a society without trust in each other… [the burka] does not correspond to our values.”
written by Arturo Guerrero Enterría
Barcelona is the main city in Catalonia. Catalonia is one Comunidad Autónoma (Autonomous Community) in the Spanish state. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain with a population of 1,621,537 inhabitants. A 17.54 percent of the total population, 284,385 individuals, are foreigners according to the data of the Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Catalonia is where the main Muslim population lives in Spain (ca. 300,000 Muslims). Most of them are immigrants that arrived in Barcelona from several countries: Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh, Algeria, Nigeria and Senegal.
The main Muslim community in Barcelona is the Pakistani. ((Departament de Estadística Ajuntament de Barcelona, Evolución de la Población Extranjera de Barcelona. 2001-2009. Available: http://www.bcn.es/estadistica/castella/dades/inf/pobest/pobest09/part1/t12.htm (2010, Feb/09).)) In 2009, there were 17,735 Pakistanis registered in this city. They are the third largest immigrant population living in Barcelona. Italian (22,684) and the Ecuadorian (22,210) communities lead this ranking. A great part of the Pakistanis living in Barcelona are male (88.9 percent) . ((Recio, A. et al. “Immigració i Mercat de Treball a Barcelona”, Consell Económic i Social de Barcelona-Ajuntament de Barcelona.)) The second biggest Muslim population is the Moroccan, with 14,402 individuals registered. They represent the sixth biggest population in Barcelona after the previous country mentioned plus Bolivia (17,672) and Peru (15,613). The gender ratio shows that the Moroccan males represent 64.5 percent of the total community.
There is in Barcelona a specific district where the Muslim population is settled, Ciutat Vella, especially in the administrative neighborhood of Raval. Following the data available for 2008, ((Departament de Estadística Ajuntament de Barcelona, Población de Barcelona. Por distritos según nacionalidades. Año 2008. Available: http://www.bcn.es/estadistica/castella/dades/guiabcn/pobbcn/t17.htm [2010, Jan/25].
It’s important to note that an estimation of Muslim population living in Barcelona is difficult to follow: There are no official records of Muslim population living in Barcelona, because as in the rest of the Spanish state, there are legalities that assure the right of preserving the confidentiality of religion.
)) in Ciutat Vella lived 6,357 Pakistanis representing 5,5 percent of the total population in this district and 37.2 percent of the total Pakistani population in Barcelona. The Moroccan population that lived in this district in 2008 was about 3,830 and represented 3.4 percent of the total population and 36.4 percent of all Moroccans living in Barcelona. The Bangladeshi community in Ciutat Vella with a total of 1,633 in 2008 represent 77.9 percent of all the Bangladeshis living in the city. The presence of the Muslim population was also important in other districts like Sants-Montjuic (15.2 percent of all the Pakistanis lived in this district quiet similar as the percentage of the total of Moroccans 15.0 percent) or Nou Barris and Sant Martí. The districts of Les Corts and Sarria Sant-Gervasi were the less occupied by Muslim population.
Settlement patterns of immigrants from Muslim-majority nations ((The Departament de Estadística Ajuntament de Barcelona provides immigration population distribution data at:
Departament de Estadística Ajuntament de Barcelona: http://www.bcn.es/estadistica/castella/dades/inf/pobest/pobest09/part1/index.htm [2010, Feb/11].
For information on Pakistanis: http://www.bcn.es/estadistica/castella/dades/inf/pobest/pobest09/part1/t318.htm
For information on Moroccans: http://www.bcn.es/estadistica/castella/dades/inf/pobest/pobest09/part1/t321.htm
|Barcelona district||Pakistanis||Moroccans||Bangladeshis||Algeria||Nigeria||Senegal||Native Spanish||Total|
The contemporary presence of Muslims in Barcelona started in the early 1960s. Barcelona and Catalonia were a first stop for the North-African migrant population on their way to Europe. The quantitative estimation is hard to establish, because of the high fluctuation and mobility of this migrant presence. Research on these movements, including data on hotel and guesthouse occupation, show that in 1965 a total of 7.702 Moroccans existed.
The settlement in Barcelona started in 1967, due to the strong European manpower crisis. In the 70´s the Magrebi population suffered irregular legal statuses. The first settlements of Muslims in Barcelona were in the quarters of Raval, Barceloneta and Santa María del Mar and in the industrial suburbs of Sta. Coloma de Gramanet, L´Hospitalet de Llobregat, Sabadell, Cornellá, Badalona, S. Vicenç dels Horts. It is important to remark that in these years a great number of Egyptians, Jordans, Syrians and Palestinians university students lived in Barcelona too. ((Moreras, J. 1999, Musulmanes en Barcelona: espacios y dinámicas comunitarias, CIDOB Edicions, Barcelona.))
Employment and Economic Activity
Since the economic crisis in 2007 began, the immigrant population has suffered high unemployment rates. Moroccans have suffered the highest unemployment rates because many worked in real estate, an industry that is experiencing great difficulty. ((Baquero, A. 2008, El paro se dispara en los barrios habitados principalmente por extranjeros en Barcelona.))
The statistics show that the immigrant Muslim population works basically as employees ((Recio, A.e.a. “Immigració i Mercat de Treball a Barcelona”, Consell Económic i Social de Barcelona-Ajuntament de Barcelona.))
The Muslim population is employed as construction workers (25.8 percent), as house workers (10.8 percent) and storekeepers.
The self-employment rates show high values between the Muslim immigrant populations working in Barcelona, if we compare them to the rates shown for other non European Union nationalities. If we look at the self-employment rates of the Pakistani (8.4 percent) and the Moroccan (4.8 percent) population we notice that they are in third and fifth position in the ranking of self-employment between the immigrant population, only surpassed by Chinese (26.7 percent) and Argentineans (9.5 percent) in first and second position in this ranking, and the Russians in fourth position with an percentage of 6.9 percent. Only the percentage of the Chinese people is similar to the medium average of the European Union (26.8 percent).
But the self-employment has a special interest in the description of the Muslim population in Barcelona, because self-employment is related with the opening of business-stores in the streets of Barcelona. One consequence of this is an increase of the visibility. Within the increase of the Muslim population and its visibility a new type of demands flourished and new types of business were established. This was the case of the opening of the first halal butcher’s shop opened in 1983. The number of halal butcher’s shops rose during the following three years to six. The halal butchers could offer halal products because the central market of Barcelona, Mercabarna, offered them the possibility to do the sacrifices following the Islamic specifications. ((Agencia Islámica de Noticias 2001, Barcelona: Mercabarna sacrifica más de 400 corderos para [la] celebración de fiestas musulmanas.)). Mercabarna could achieve the halal certificate from the Spanish Muslim association Junta Islámica in 2005. ((Agencia EFE 2005, Matadero Mercabarna obtiene la certificación del Instituto Halal.)). The extension of the Islamic business in Barcelona includes new business like travel agencies specialized in Pilgrimage to Mecca ((Moreras, J. 2005, “¿Ravalistán? Islam y configuración comunitaria entre los paquistaníes en Barcelona”, Revista CIDOB D´Afers Internacionals; Migraciones y relaciones internacionales entre España y Asia, vol. 68. ))and other different shops (textile, electrical appliance, communication and mobile telephony). In general we have to consider that Muslim immigrants have established a lot of different types of business, also in crisis time, they have used different strategies to compete with the local businesses: Long working days, offering credit to their customers, selling specific products (differentiation and diversification of the business). Some of these strategies are being criticized by a part of the autochthonous business owners. They lean especially on the legal restriction of the business opening hours, because these Islamic businesses are often more time open than the town council specification admits.
In Barcelona they are 35,882 of school age registered.
According to Barcelona’s town council data Moroccans are the largest group between 1 and 17 years with 2,734 individuals, followed by Pakistanis (1,827) and Bangladeshis (443). But education data indicates that these immigrant Muslim populations have a high population of uneducated people. The Bangladeshi population rate of uneducated people is also very high. The rate of unregistered Bangladeshi individuals of school age is 54.2 percent far away from the rates shown by the total immigrant population in school age (26.2 percent). The Moroccan (34.5 percent) and the Pakistani population (39.5 percent) are very high too, but no as high as the Bangladeshi rate.
Population and students per nationality in Barcelona 2008 ((Departament de Estadística Ajuntament de Barcelona, Extranjeros y enseñanza. Población y alumnos no universitarios por nacionalidades en Barcelona. 2008. Available: http://www.bcn.es/estadistica/castella/dades/inf/pobest/pobest09/part2/p0202.htm (2010, Feb/09).))
Pakistani population has mainly a primary education (89.3 percent) only 5.2 percent achieve the high school degree and 4.9 percent has a degree. Moroccans have mainly primary level too (79.5 percent), but on the other hand they achieve higher rates in high school (12.5 percent) and university (6.9 percent) than the Pakistani population.
This shows very different rates if we compare it to the total immigrant population living Barcelona. The rate of scholarship for the total population shows lower values for the primary education (47 percent), but the high school (23 percent) and the university (29 percent) rates are higher. ((Recio, A.e.a. “Immigració i Mercat de Treball a Barcelona”, Consell Económic i Social de Barcelona-Ajuntament de Barcelona.)) This data shows a lower qualification of the Muslims population in comparison with the immigrant population average in Barcelona.
It is interesting to examine the evolution of Islamic Education in Spain. It was recognized within the Agreement between the Spanish State and the Islamic Community of Spain. After this recognition the process of implementing this politics wasn´t roll-out, because religion was not a priority in the political arena. Only after the bombings in the commuter train system in Madrid in 2004 was the implementation of the Agreement was reinforced. We have to consider also that another process–the decentralization of the Spanish State, was taking place at the same time and some competences of the Spanish State were being transferred to the Comunidades Autónomas (Autonomous Regions) during the implementation of this agreement. The politics related to education were one of the subjects that were being transferred to the Comunidad Autónoma of Catalonia. This affected directly to the running of the Islamic education in Catalonia and in Barcelona too.
Just before the 2009-2010 academic year Spanish news reported that no teachers were hired to teach Islamic religion in Catalonia. ((Ayllón, D. 2009, El Islam tiene 46 maestros para 150.000 alumnos.)) This is the situation in the Comunidad of Madrid too, but not in the Comunidades Autónomas where these subjects haven’t been transferred yet and where the Spanish State is leading these competences.
In Barcelona, there is an open debate about the construction of a great mosque since 1988, when the first the Asociación Gran Mezquita de Barcelona (“Great Mosque Association of Barcelona”) was created. But the first steps for the building of a great mosque were taken a decade later. In 1999 a Syrian settled in Barcelona, Mowafak Kanfach, made the proposal to the town council of building a mosque with the direct investment of the Saudi Arabian Prince, Abdallah Ben Abdel Aziz. But the first’s problems arose with the opposition of the town councilors and the increasing internal division of the Muslim community in Barcelona.
It’s very surprising that only prayer rooms and little mosques have been created where the main Muslim population of Spain lives. This is because part of the Islamic community in Barcelona wants the construction of a great mosque and another part of the Muslims in Barcelona prefer the creation of well-equipped prayer rooms and the improvement of the existing ones. ((Segler, A. 2007, Barcelona: ¿Es necesaria una gran mezquita?¿O es mejor “una mezquita digna” en cada barrio?)) Both positions, those who supports the creation of a great mosque and those who support a more decentralized system of little prayer rooms, instead of a great mosque, are focused on the achievement of improve quality of the religious and social life of the Muslims in Barcelona and in Catalonia. But at the moment one main characteristic of the Islamic cult spaces in Barcelona is the precariousness of the resources. Most of them depend on the resources available in the community, on financial support from individual actors, on contributions of international Islamic organizations and on charity collection. Most of the worship places are located in old warehouses and garages, premises and flats. The characteristics described reflect the conditions of these spaces: too small (especially during Ramadan), lacking basic security accesses, ventilation and not fulfilling the legal requirement particularly at the beginning of these projects. Many of these prayer rooms are also multifunctional spaces. They aren’t used only as prayer rooms; they’re used also for other cultural and social activities, without having a specific area for each thing mixing sacred spaces with other non sacred.
Currently the town council spokesperson argues that the building of a great mosque in Barcelona can’t be considered, because in Barcelona does not exist a unique Muslim community and because the possibility to find a unique Muslim voice to find agreement about this issue is at the moment not possible ((Europa Press 2008, Barcelona no tendrá por ahora una mezquita como la de la M30 de Madrid.)).
There are also political parties against the construction of a great mosque in Barcelona. This is the position shown by the conservative right wing party (Partido Popular) ((Partido Popular is the third party most voted in the last town council elections (15.6 percent of the total votes achieved) after the Partido Socialista de Catalunya and Convergencia I Unió and the second party at state level.)) . The answer to this question of Alberto Fernández Díaz, the mayor candidate of Partido Popular in the last town council elections, was:
“No to a great mosque in Barcelona… I fear of who pays the constructions of mosques…” ((Redacción Webislam 2008, Candidato del PP a la Alcaldia: “No a una gran mezquita en Barcelona”.))
Meanwhile other places of worship (little mosques and prayer rooms) have been opened in Barcelona. In 1983 there were four worship places registered officially in Barcelona, the number increased in 2008 to fourteen ((Europa Press 2008, Unos 3.000 catalanes se han convertido a la religión musulmana en los últimos años.)) and in 2010 to sixteen ((Oficina D´Afers Religiosos Ajuntament de Barcelona , Religious organizations and places of worship. Available: http://w3.bcn.es/XMLServeis/Asia/XMLCercadorAsiaCtl/0,4134,259064949_760259385_3,00.html?tema=0040102016006_Islam&entitat=&radiob_lloc=1&districte=0&nom_carrer=&numero=&al=&submit-cerca=Search&cercadorAsia=true&districte=&llistaCanal=NO&accio=cercar_eq (2010, Jan/26))).
Other type of spaces had been adapted in order to meet with the needs of the Muslim community in Barcelona. This is the case of the cemeteries for Islamic burials. In 1997 the town council decided to reserve 552 square meters ((Argita, E.(Coord.). 2009, Musulmanes en España. Guía de Referencia, Casa Árabe.)) in the Collserola cemetery for this use and this was possible after the signature of an agreement between the city of Barcelona and four Arab-Muslim social and cultural entities. This was also problematic, because the major Spanish Islamic organizations (especially FEERI) claimed that this agreement had to be signed by them and the town council and not by the local Islamic association and the town council.
But a main characteristic of the Muslim population in Barcelona is the high diversity between them. This is shown not only by the demographical data mentioned before, that show the different origins of the Muslim population in Barcelona, this is also shown by the different forms of understanding Islam by the Muslims in Barcelona and it’s also shown in the different associations and mosque officially registered. This variety of Islamic approaches is related to the distinction between shiism and sunnism.
In Barcelona the Muslim population is mainly sunni, but they´re also two shii associations ((Estruch, J., Gömez i Segala, J., Griera, M.d.M. & Iglesias, A. 2006, Las otras religiones, Icaria Editorial.)) and they try to be very active in the public sphere. These associations celebrate the Ashura ((Solá, G. 2009, Los chiíes residentes en España también celebran la Ashura The Ashura is the one of the main festivity for the shii Muslims and it commemorate the martyrdom of the Imam Hussein.)) with a demonstration in the streets of Barcelona with some limitations. It is forbidden to realize flagellation ritual with bloodshed during the public demonstration.
We can find also Sufis turuq ((Turuq is the plural of tariqa and it can be translated to English as brotherhood, association or guild.)) (brotherhoods) in Barcelona. These turuq are followed mainly by autochthonous individuals and the immigrants are only a few. One of these Sufis center is the Instituto de Estudios Sufíes, founded in 1998, which follows the Maulawiyya tariqa. Another association established in Barcelona is the Centro Sufí de Barcelona founded in 2000 and is related to the Naqshbandiya tariqa.
There are different ways in which Muslims organize in Barcelona: By self-management of the Muslim collectives, by cultural actions of diplomatic representations, by supranational actions of the Muslim organizations, by influences of the Spanish Muslim associations and by individual actors. The creation of Islamic associations in Barcelona has been a long process. These associations were created informally without being legally registered at the beginning until these organizations find their stability. Many of these associations are registered as cultural associations and not as religious entities, because it’s easier to register them as cultural associations.
The first associative efforts took place in 1974 with the creation of the Asociación de Amistad con los Pueblos Árabes Bayt al-Thaqafa and the opening of a local office of the Centro Islámico de Madrid ((Moreras, J. 1999, Musulmanes en Barcelona: espacios y dinámicas comunitarias, CIDOB Edicions, Barcelona.)). This phenomenon grew afterwards with the creation of other associations: Amical de Trabajadores y Comerciantes Marroquíes en Barcelona (1979). (Amical is a very relevant association in Barcelona due to is work with Moroccan immigrants) and Casa y Centro Islámico de Pakistán (1981).
The following data show the associations and mosques inscribed officially in Barcelona (Official Islamic entities, religious organizations and worship places registered in Barcelona in the minority confessions register of the Justice Ministry of Spain ((Ministerio de Justicia, Registro de Confesiones Minoritarias. Available: http://dgraj.mju.es/EntidadesReligiosas/NCindex.htm (2010, Jan/21).)) and at the Office of Religious Affairs of the Barcelona town council):
- Almahabba Wattaouasol
- Anjamane Eshat Udin O Falah Ul Muslemin
- Associació Social Cultural Independent Forjadores de la Vida (Sant Martí)
- Centre Islàmic Al Qaim (Ciutat Vella)
- Centre Islàmic Camí de la Pau (Ciutat Vella)
- Centre Islàmic Camí de la Pau – Oratori – Arc del Teatre (Ciutat Vella)
- Centre Islàmic de Barcelona (Sant Andreu)
- Centre Sufí – Derga Naqshbandi (Gràcia)
- Centro Islámico Al Qaim
- Centro Islámico Camino de la Paz
- Centro Islámico Catalán
- Centro Islámico del Carmelo
- Centro Islámico Mezquita Shahajalaljame
- Comunidad Islámica Amigos de la Mezquita de la Paz
- Comunidad Islámica Anjuman Islah Ul Muslemin De Barcelona
- Comunidad Islámica de la Bordeta – Mezquita Rahma (Misericordia)
- Comunidad Musulmana Al-Iman
- Comunidad Al Kauzar
- Comunitat al Kauzar
- Consell Islàmic Cultural de Catalunya (Ciutat Vella)
- Comunidad Al Kauzar
- Consell Islàmic Cultural de Catalunya
- Consejo Islámico de Cataluña
- Federació Islàmica de Catalunya (Ciutat Vella)
- Federación Islámica Catalana de España (FICDE)
- Hermandad Islámica Imam Ar-Rida (A.S.)
- Institut d’Estudis Sufís (Les Corts)
- Junta Islàmica Catalana
- Mesquita Abi Ayoub Elansari (Ciutat Vella)
- Mesquita Abu Bakr Sant (Martí)
- Mesquita Ali Ciutat (Vella)
- Mesquita Baba Jalal Shah (Ciutat Vella)
- Mesquita Fezane Madina (Sants-Montjuïc)
- Mesquita Jamea Masjad Ghulamane Mustapha Catalunya (Sant Martí)
- Mesquita la Paz (Sant Andreu)
- Mesquita Madni (Ciutat Vella)
- Mesquita Rahma (Sants-Montjuïc)
- Mesquita Tarek Ibn Ziad (Ciutat Vella)
- Mezquita Hamza (Sant Martí)
- Yamaat Ahmadia Del Islam a Espanya
Public Perception and Community Life
The leading force for the increase of the Muslim visibility in Barcelona, as in other parts of the Spanish state, is related to the definitive settlement of the Muslim population in Spain and an increasing integration wish ((Argita, E. (Coord.). 2009, Musulmanes en España. Guía de Referencia, Casa Árabe.)). The increase of visibility can be associated to a bigger interest of the media in the presence of the Islamic community. The precariousness of the Islamic community affects also the way that this community is being seen by the non Muslim population. The lack of space and the localization of the Muslim prayer rooms has also increase its visibility, because several times the Friday prays and in the Holy Festivities many Muslims must perform their prays on the street. This has caused some tensions between the Muslim community and the authority.
Usually, Muslims are identified with Moroccans and the concept of “Moro”. This concept and other traditional stereotypes make that the Muslim community is seen with suspicion; this perception was reinforced after the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in September 2001. Several efforts were made in order to promote the interreligious dialog, but these efforts crashed down after the terrorist attacks in the commuter train system in Madrid in 2004. ((Moreras, J. 2008, “Musulmans a Catalunya; Radiografia d´un islam implantat”, IEMed (Documents).))
Several new efforts have been done since then to increase the interreligious dialog. Some of these efforts are promoted by the town council and the UNESCO. One example of these efforts is the creation of the Office of Religious Affairs (OAR) by the City Council´s Department of Civil Rights and managed by UNESCOCAT (The UNESCO Center of Catalonia) ((Oficina D´Afers Religiosos Ajuntament de Barcelona, available at: http://w3.bcn.es/XMLServeis/XMLHomeLinkPl/ ; (Last view: 10.02.2010))). The Office of Religious Affairs is focused on improving the relationship between the different religions that meet together in Barcelona and to empower the coexistence by mediation in conflicts relate with religions, training on different beliefs and giving advise and information about religious issues. This center has promoted also a new legal regulation for the establishment of worship places and the official register of the already existing. This is not only for the Islamic prayer rooms, but also for other religions present in Barcelona. ((Oficina D´Afers Religiosos & Ajuntament de Barcelona 2007, Obertura i Regularització de Centres de Centres de Culte a la Ciutat de Barcelona.))
In general, we can describe the relationship between the immigrant Muslim population and the people of Barcelona as coexistence without high interaction in order to avoid conflicts. ((Torres Pérez, F. 2006, “Las dinámicas de la convivencia en un barrio multicultural. El caso de Russafa (Valencia)”, Papeles del CEIC.)) Many Muslims have chosen to reduce their visibility to avoid problems and conflicts. The clearest example of this effort in reducing their visibility is the absence of elements that inform about the location of many prayer rooms (prayer room signs, advertising hoarding etc.). But these efforts to maintain a climate of coexistence are broken occasionally by conflicts that sometimes have been promoted by autochthonous local associations and minority radical groups ((Moreras, J. 2004, “Conflictos en Cataluña” in Atlas de Inmigración Marroquí en España, eds. B. López García & M. Berriane, UAM-Observatorio Permanente de la Inmigración.))
That has been also used opportunistically by some politicians in their discourses affecting negatively how Muslims are perceived by the rest of people living in Barcelona. ((MARTÍNEZ, Montse (2007); El candidato del PP a la alcaldía de Barcelona reitera su oposición a una mezquita e invita a discriminar a los inmigrantes por su religión; elperiódico.com; available at: http://www.webislam.com/?idn=9427 ; Last view:(18.01.2010)))
All these aspects have their reflection in an increase of the presence of news related with the Muslims presence in the mass media. The images showed by some media aren’t often very friendly portraying the Muslims population of Barcelona and stereotypes are often used to support argument lines.
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Written by Simon Sorgenfrei
The first Muslim immigrants came to Norway in the late 1960s looking for work. People primarily arrived from North Morocco and Turkish Anatolia, with large numbers coming from the province of Punjab in Pakistan as well. Muslims of Pakistani background is, and has been, the dominant and most visible Muslim group in Norway. The most notable deployments within the Pakistani-Muslims in Norway is between the Barelwis and the Deobandis. There is also a very active Tablighi group in Norway. The great number of Barelwis calls for a strong Sufi-oriented interpretation of Islam in Norway.
After a ban on labor migration in 1975, the Muslim population has been added to by family reunification and refugees. Today, according to Kari Vogt’s re-issued “classic” “Islam på Norsk” and Christine Jacobson’s account of Islam and Muslims in Norway in Göran Larsson’s (ed.) “Islam in the Nordic and Baltic Countries”, there are approximately 120,000 to 150,000 Muslims living in Norway. ((Vogt 2008:9, Jacobsen 2009:18)) Of these, some 80,000 could be called practicing, religious, or organized Muslims. ((Statistisk sentralbyrå, Innvandring, Vogt 2009:9 The largest ethnic Muslim gropu)) The largest ethnic-Muslim group in Norway is to be found among Pakistani immigrants (29 134), followed by Iraqis (22 881), Somalis (21 795), Bosniaks (15 649), and Iranians (15 134). ((Statistisk sentralbyrå, 1. januar 2008. The figures presented here represents the total number of immigrants of the ethnic groups – not the number of Muslims within the groups.))
About 80 percent are Sunni Muslims, and the Shi’ite minority is counted at approximately 20 percent.
For an through and updated account and bibliography of Islam and Muslims in Norway, see Oddbjörn Leirvik’s website:
In the study of immigrants conditions on the Norwegian labor market, “Highly Educated Immigrants on the Norwegian Labour Market: Permanent Disadvantage?”, Idunn Brekke and Arne Mastekaasa concluded that:
the overall finding is one of a considerable immigrant–native gap in both employment and earnings. The immigrant–native gap is particularly large for recent immigrants, and declines sharply during the first years in Norway. After about eight years, however, further increases in residency have no effect. Keeping the time of residency effect constant, there is a quite clear tendency for earnings (but not employment) differences between male immigrants and natives to increase with time since graduation. For women, the most striking effect is a steady decline in immigrants’ probability of full time employment. ((Brekke and Mastekaasa 2008 The study is available at http://wes.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/22/3/507 See also: Hansen, M.N. (2000) ‘Høyere utdanning og utbytte – hva betyr utenlandsk opprinnelse for inntektsnivå’, Søkelys på arbeidsmarkedet 17(2): 223–34. and Longva, P. and Raaum, O. (2003) ‘Earnings Assimilation of Immigrants in Norway – a Reappraisal’, Journal of Population Economics 16(1): 77–193. ))
The great majority of Norway’s Muslim population live in the capitol Oslo. Just as the rest of the immigrated population, Oslo’s Muslims mainly live in the east of the city. ((Blom 2002)) The second-largest town of Norway, Bergen, also has a Muslim population of some quantity, but compared to the Muslim population of Oslo the Muslims in Bergen has been quite anonymous until fairly recently when a conflict over prayer facilities and a new mosque attracted some media attention. ((Jacobsen 2009:18f))
State and Church
Norway has an established state church system, and about 83 percent of the total population are counted as members. Every religious community in Norway is entitled to the same amount of financial support per member as the state church receives for each of its members. The state church is a challenged institution and is up for revision. A commission investigating the question of the church-state relations – the Gjonnes Commission – has recommended that the current state church system should be put to an end. ((Jacobsen 2009: 29ff))
Muslims in Government
No academic research is currently available.
Up until the 1990s the most common way of institutionalizing Islam in Norway was the establishment of mosques and organizations along national, linguistic, and doctrinal lines writes Jacobsen. ((Jacobsen 2009:20)) In the 1990s a number of new organisations that recruited across these boundaries were established – some of whom had nationwide ambitions. ((Jacobsen 2009:21))
The first Muslim umbrella organization – The Muslim Defence Committee – was established as a response to the Rushdie affair in 1989. That same year also witnessed the establishment of the Islamic Information Association, and in 1991 the Islamic Women’s Group of Norway as well as the Urtehagen Foundation, witch focuses on education and schooling, was both established. 1993 the Islamic Council of Norway – after an initiative from the Church of Norway – was established. In 2006 it gathered about 25 Muslim organizations throughout the country. In addition to these, two largely independent student and youth organizations was established in the 1990s. “The Muslim Student Organization (MSS) and the Muslim Youth of Norway (NMU), established in 1995 and 1996, marked the ‘coming of age’ of a new generation of Muslims born and raised in Norway.” ((Jacobsen 2009:21, 23f, Vogt 2008: 74ff and especially Ch. 6))
There are two purpose built mosques in Oslo, both in the eastern parts of town. The first – the World Islamic Mission – was built by the Barelwis in 1995, and in 2007 the Barelwis also opened the Jamaat-e Ahl-e Sunnat Mosque near by. It is a multifunctional mosque that accommodates different financial, cultural, social, and financial activities. Most mosques in Norway, however, are located in flats, basements, old industrial buildings etc. ((Naguib 2001, Vogt 2008: Ch. 1-2))
Leirvik (2002) gave the following account of the modern debate on religious education in Norway:
In the 1990s, the need was felt to restructure religious education in schools so as to provide an opportunity for mutual learning. A new system of religious education in primary and lower secondary schools was introduced in 1997. Until then, parents had three options as to religion in school: either (1) Christianity with a confessional, Lutheran basis, or (2) “worldviews” with a neutral or even secular flavour, or (3) no religious or life stance education in school. In principle, the faith communities could establish their own out of school religious education, with financial support from the authorities. Some mosques took advantage of the opportunity and were thus able to receive some financial support for their qur’anic schools (only for those Muslim children who opted out from religion in school).
From 1997, this has changed and all pupils are now supposed to take part in the new and compulsory subject “Christianity, Religions and Life Stances” (the Norwegian acronym is KRL, for “Kristendom, religion og livssynskunnskap”). No alternatives can longer be established. Full exemption is neither not possible, only so-called “partial exemption” from activities that parents might deem to run contrary to their own faith (i.e. reading prayers aloud, or participating in other worship-related activities). The Education Act presupposes that all religions are taught with the same pedagogical approach and treated on their own terms as “a living source of faith, morals and life interpretation”.
When first introduced, the KRL subject met with considerable suspicion and protest from the non-Christian minorities. Their apprehension had probably been raised by certain formulations in the general part of the curriculum (from 1993), which seem to refer to Christianity as the national bond: “Christian faith and tradition constitute a deep current in our history – a heritage that unites us as a people across religious persuasions”.
In the course of the process, some concessions were made to minority interest and resource persons from the minority communities (Muslims, Buddhists, secular humanists) were invited to contribute to the work on the curriculum.
The new curriculum implies that for the first time, all Norwegian pupils will receive a substantial amount of knowledge not only of Christianity but also of Islam and the other world religions, as well as of philosophy and more secular outlooks on life. Apart from ensuring that all pupils will have a good knowledge of the Christian tradition as well as of other religions and worldviews/life stances, the intention has been to open a space for dialogue training in an increasingly multireligious society.
Despite these good intentions, to which most parents and faith communities would probably subscribe, minority representatives initially saw the new subject as a just another way of reinforcing “the Christian cultural heritage” or “Christian and Humanist values”. Although several adjustments have been made to accommodate for minority interests, many minority representatives still struggle for the right to opt out of the new subject entirely, and – possibly – to organise alternatives as before. Both the Humanist Association and the Islamic Council brought the case to Norwegian courts in 1999. After their cases were turned down, the Humanist Association plans to bring it before the European Court in Strasbourg.
Many Muslims have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the new compulsory subject. They are still suspicious towards the original design of the subject (“Christianity plus”), and critical of the idea of a compulsory subject that is mainly Christian in quantitative terms. At the local level, however, the situation is often different, and many Muslim parents seem gradually to have become more positive towards the subject because of the inclusive way in which it is now being practised in many schools. The general principle of adjustment to local context makes it possible to put more emphasis on Islam in schools with many Muslims. It might thus be that the subject (with some further adjustments) may eventually become rather flexible and pluralistic in practice.
The case is replete with potentially wide-ranging consequences. Within say ten years, we will know whether a unified school system – including a uniform system of religious education – will survive the new pluralism in Norway, or whether people will organise themselves differently in order to ensure their freedom of religion. ((Leirvik The current debate about religious education and freedom of religion in Norway, 2002))
The first application for a Muslim private school in Norway was presented by the Urtehagen Foundation to the Labour party government in 1995, but meet with a rejection. The same application was later approved by the Christian People’s Party in 1999 and after some debate, the first Muslim private school – Urtehagen friskole – was opened in 2001. ((Berglund 2007, Leirvik The current debate about religious education and freedom of religion in Norway)) However, the School closed due to internal conflicts in 2004. Trond Ali Linhagen – a Norwegian convert who established the Urtegahen Foundation in 1993 – didn’t give up and applied again to open a Muslim private school in Drammen in 2006. This time the application was denied by the left-wing government who stopped all new private schools after coming to power in 2005.
As for now there exists no Muslim private schools in Norway.
Security, Immigration and Anti-Terrorism Issues
One of the most debate Muslim individuals in Norway is and has been Mulla Krekar. Krekar, or Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, is an Iraqi Kurd that has been living in Norway since 1991. Eveso he has not been granted Norwegian citizenship. Krekar is known as one of the founders and the original leader of the Kurdish Islamist group Ansar al-Islam. Since 2006 he has been on the UN terror list.
Late January 2010 Krekar’s home was attacked and his son in law was shot in the arm. ((Verldens Gang (Norwegian) Nettavisen (Norwegian) Aftenposten (Norwegian) Aftenposten (Norwegian) Aftenposten (Norwegian) NRK (Norwegian) P4 (Norwegian) Adressa (Norwegian)))
Up until the 1990s mosques and other Islamic milieus in Norway were generally male arenas. But in later years we can see how women are becoming more active and visible in Muslim activities – not the least as a result of the efforts of the Islamic Women’s Group of Norway (IKN). ((Jacobsen 2009:25))
Media and Public Perception of Islam
In the essay, “Theory and Politics in Research on Muslim Immigrants in Norway”, Christine Jacobsen discusses how there was a change in Norwegian public debate from the “immigrant other” to the “Muslim other” in the 1990s. ((Jacobsen 2008))
The Muslim presence creates a lot of attention and the tone in the Media is getting harsher. Muslims loyalty towards “Norwegian values” are being questioned, they are often accused of being violent and hostile, and the Muslims – as a collective – are talked about as enemies of freedom of speech. ((Vogt 2008:12)) In an essay on Muslims in Norwegian media Kjersti Rogde Naess finds that Muslims are generally depicted as the Others, and the otherness of Muslim immigrants are depicted as something negative. Muslims are generally associated with criminality and other anti-social, or non-Norwegian behaviour, explained through their religious denomination, where Islam is being reified into a coherent system. ((Naess 2005))
Political and Intellectual Discourse
Even if there exists, according to Jacobsen (2009), a considerable body of “immigrant studies”, there is still little research into the various practical and institutional manifestations of the contemporary Islamic presence in Norway. The studies conducted, she continues, has mainly been from the field of religious studies “often emanating out of a concern with inter-religious dialogue” – or from the field of social sciences concerning themselves primarily with ethnic, social and economic dimensions of Muslim immigration. Even so, in later years it has become more common to “read across” this division “by investigating the religious dimensions of Muslim immigrants lives within the Norwegian sociocultural context.” ((Jaconsen 2009:19))
Politiken newspaper, one of 11 Danish newspapers that reprinted the Mohammed cartoons, has issued an apology to eight Muslim organizations for offending Muslims – allegedly to avoid a lawsuit. The settlement reached between the paper and the organizations does not, however, apologize for the printing of the cartoons, nor prevent the paper from reprinting them in the future. The eight organizations who reached the agreement with Politiken are based in Egypt, Libya, Qatar, Australia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Palestine. Together they represent 94,923 descendents of the Prophet Mohammed.
In August last year, the groups’ Saudi lawyer, Faisal Yamani, requested that Politiken and 10 other newspapers remove the images from their websites and issue apologies along with a promise that the images, or similar ones, will never be printed again. Politiken is the only one of the 11 newspapers who has agreed on a settlement. Yamani says that within the next weeks the eight Muslim organizations will announce what kind of legal actions they will now take against the ten newspapers who haven’t agreed on a settlement.
Jyllands-Posten newspaper initially published the drawings in 2005, but following the murder plot in 2008 against one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, 11 major Danish newspapers reprinted them as a symbol of solidarity. Politiken, which had initially been critical of the cartoons, chose to reprint Westergaard’s drawing and an editorial comment that said Jyllands-Posten deserved unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror. However, Politiken’s statement today said the decision to reprint the drawing of a man with a bomb in his turban was never intended as a “statement of editorial opinion or value, but merely as part of the newspaper’s news coverage”. The apology stated that it was “never Politiken’s intention to offend Muslims in Denmark or elsewhere. We apologize to anyone who was offended by our decision to reprint the cartoon drawing”.
Politiken’s editor-in-chief, Tøger Seidenfaden, says he is hoping the agreement will help improve relations between Denmark and the Muslim world and that “other acts of dialogue and reconciliation may follow”. But the move has been derided by other newspapers, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and leading politicians. Other newspapers which reprinted the cartoon, including Berlingske Tidende, Kristeligt Dagblad and the original publisher Jyllands-Posten, refused to enter into the same agreement with the organizations. Jyllands-Posten editor, Jørn Mikkelsen, called it a “sad day for Danish media, for freedom of speech and for Politiken”. In 2006 Jyllands-Posten apologized for upsetting some Muslims with the cartoons, but Mikkelsen believes that Politiken’s apology crosses the line as it was made as part of a deal. Meanwhile, Westergaard accused the Politiken of giving up on freedom of speech and said they had given into the fear of terror. However, professor in rhetoric at University of Copenhagen, Christian Kock says that Jyllands-Posten apology from 2006 and Politiken’s apology are more or less similar. None of them apologizes for printing the cartoons. They apologize for offending Muslims by doing it. The difference is that Politikens apology is part of a settlement with Muslim organizations.
Opposition leaders Helle Thorning-Schmidt of the Social Democrats and Villy Søvndal of the Socialist People’s Party called the move outrageous and said deals should not be done involving freedom of speech. Not all politicians are deriding Politiken. Leader of Danish Social-Liberal Party Margrethe Vestager thinks Politiken acts courageously by choosing dialogue rather than confrontation. Also the Danish imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen praises Politiken for the apology. He doesn’t think the agreement is a threat against freedom of speech: “Politiken doesn’t apologize for printing the cartoons. They apologize for having offended some by doing it” Wahid Pedersen says.
More than 500,000 Muslims live in Austria, but this figure tells us nothing about how many are actual believers. The expression “C and E Christians” (German version: “Baptismal-certificate Catholics”) applies to the Muslim community as well – people who still live according to certain traditions, but otherwise live a largely secular life.
For these “Muslims” there now exists a representative organization: the Central Committee of Ex-Muslims was founded yesterday (February 26) in Vienna, with the intention of appealing to those who are Muslims on paper, though perhaps not in practice.
The association plans to be involved in debates among Muslims on issues such as the headscarf or minarets, while they also intend to set up a phone hotline for youth. The founder, Cahit Kaya, explains that “we would like offer assistance to children from Muslim families who may not have anyone to talk to.” However, the association is still searching for funding, which explains the lack of a homepage or even an office. Furthermore, it does not look like this constitutes the beginning of a mass movement that might prove to be a rival to the numerous religious associations and the Islamic Community in Austria (IGGiÖ). “The core,” says Kaya, “consists of around twenty people.” Nonetheless, the point is not the number of members at the moment, but establishing a presence and speaking out when Muslim themes are discussed.
The German counterpart and model, founded in 2007, has already shown how this can successfully be done. A Swiss branch was founded in 2009, and now it is Austria’s turn. The figurehead of the movement is the Islam-critic and feminist Mina Ahadi, who was forced to flee Iran for her political activities – first to Vienna, then to Germany. Ahadi has received numerous threats on account of her activities, which Kaya anticipates will be the same in his case as well.
In Austria, renouncing Islam can be done as with any other religious community: all one needs is to submit a form to the proper authorities, such as the Magistratisches Bezirkamt in Vienna. Carla-Amina Baghajati, spokesperson for the IGGiÖ, stated: “one cannot bring people to something that they do not believe,” though she logically was not enthusiastic about the new association.
The IGGiÖ will most likely be one of the most important sparring partners for the new Central Committee, both with regard to the former’s claim to representativeness as well as legitimacy in religious interpretation. “The attempt to raise children a certain way does not always come from the family, but also from outside,” says Kaya. “And we reject that.”
In this op-ed piece, Erich Kocina takes issue with the collective fear of a “clash of civilizations” in Austria with respect to Muslims, most often referring to Turks.
First of all, he says that this fear is due to a number of real integration problems; however, this should not be surprising given that uneducated Eastern Anatolian farmers, let loose in a big city in which they have difficulty finding their place, and who consequently turn inwards to find comfort in their partly archaic traditions, do not offer the most favorable circumstances for successful integration. The Austrian way of doing nothing, and then wondering why the group would rather stay closed upon itself, merely encourages this situation.
Secondly, he states that Turks have become the recipient for all negatives image of Muslims in general – whether it be from the 9/11 attacks, shaky videos of Islamist extremists threatening the West, or dictatorial regimes justifying their power by means of the Qur’an. Turk equals Muslim. Muslim equals bad. Period.
Though it seems ridiculous to need to differentiate Turks in Austria from Al-Qaida, Kocina believes that the latest publication from the Austrian Integration Fund may yet bring back the idea that the country will soon be overrun by Muslims, and that all women will be forced to wear a headscarf. Yet, the numbers from this report demonstrate only that there are more Muslims in Austria; those from countries such as Turkey, Bosnia, Kosovo or elsewhere, have had children; they have arranged for their families to join them in Austria; and that many have become Austrian citizens.
The study estimates that 58 percent of Turkish youth is religious, and points out that this religiosity is more pronounced the less educated these youths are. Kocina argues that this is logical, as less education means fewer chances in finding a job, and consequently more need for a social foothold, which can often be found in religion.
The oft repeated stories that the land will soon be overrun with Turks, due to their tendency to have more children, are contradicted by statistics. Though at the moment the average birth rate for Muslims is slightly higher than the national average, as living standards rise, the willingness to bring more children into the world sinks.
Kocina concludes by saying that the rest of Austria already knows this process, leaving one last development that the Catholic majority has already long behind it: secularization. This idea has just received an unexpected institutional pillar: the recently-announced formation of a Central Committee of Ex-Muslims in Austria.
Several commentators have noted the similarity of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front posters against Islamism in France to those in the anti-minaret campaign in Switzerland in November 2009. Please see the article to compare the images.