The Islamic community of Bilbao protests against the places of worship law

14 June 2013
More than a hundred members of the Bilbao Muslim community expressed their dissatisfaction about the new law ruling the places of worship during a demonstration at the esplanade of the Guggenheim Museum.
According to the law which is to be approved at the end of the month, no mosque or other type place of worship can be located in the city of Bilbao, pushing all new construction on the outskirts of the town.
A spokesman for the Muslim community, Othman Gomez Kortazar, considered the law a “serious attack” to the Islamic community and to all other religions. “The City Hall does not want to see in Bilbao people with different customs and beliefs” complained Gomez to the reporters.
He also lamented the unwillingness of the City Hall to dialogue and to try to reach a solution with the Muslim organizations. The president of the Al Furkan, Moulay Idriss Sadiki, demanded respect for  freedom of worship.

The location of a mosque affects local politics in Portugalete

15 August 2012

The possibility that a mosque will open its doors in an inhabited house in Portugalete has shaken the daily life of the local City Hall. The Mayor, the Socialist Mikel Torres, yesterday accused the Popular Party of “lying” and generate “social alarm” by reporting  that “many residents will find themselves arriving from their holidays to see such a Mosque located under their homes. ”
Unlike Bilbao or Basauri, where government teams plan to ban Mosques in housing buildings, Torres does not believe this to be necessary. In his opinion, Portugalete lives a different situation. “Here we do not have 118 centers of worship coming from  eight different religious denominations like in Bilbao.

Neighbors ask judge in Bilbao to stop construction of mosque

21 May 12

The neighbors of Bilbao La Vieja following their battle against the local Mosque construction permits have now called for a precautionary measure to suspend these works. The City Council, in the other hand has granted permission to the Alforkan Mosque to take over 605 square meters and build there an oratory for circa 398 people.

The dispute arises at a critical time for centers of worship in the Basque region. Bilbao City Council has suspended for a year the construction licenses to draft its new regulations, giving special attention to its location.  However, the Regional Basque Government has a different opinion considering the precautionary measure as “extemporaneous” and not necessitating the halt of construction works. The two institutions are moving in parallel, with serious differences over how to manage religious diversity and to decide about the requirements to be met by the promoters of places of worship.

Residents of San Francisco accuse the City Hall of Bilbao of having “double standards” when issuing construction permits for religious buildings

11 May 12
In Bilbao, in the neighborhood of San Francisco, a citizens’ social group, designated the 48003 movement, is considering to organize demonstrations “against the building of a mosque in the Conception street,” “since the City does not defend our interests or the law ‘, the movement claims against the City Hall administration. They feel “discriminated” by the cabinet of Inaki Azkuna, which they say it, has applied a “double standard” by stopping the edification of the Basurto mosque where as at the same time has authorized the construction of the mosque in Conception street.

Azkuna adverts that opening Praying Centers without a permit could damage the coexistence

08 May 2012
The mayor of Bilbao, Inaki Azkuna has adverted the Basque Government that the Law of the Praying Centers (allows religious groups under the number of 300 people to be able to edify their own Praying Center without the City Hall permission) will generate more security and integration problems. Also Javier Maroto, Vice-President of the Eudel (Basque City Halls Association) has affirmed that his organization will not keep quiet in front of a norm that will allow “mosques to be open like mushrooms”.

Vitoria Considers Building Muslim Cemetery

The municipality of Vitoria is to consider the construction of a cemetery to suit the needs of its Muslim population, The city will meet this fall with representatives from its five mosques and the Islamic Communities Union in the Basque Country to negotiate the project, whose initial discussions date to the late 1990s when the Vitorian Mayor’s office destined 1,000 square meters in El Salvador for this use. The recent inauguration of a Muslim cemetery in Derio (opened in Oct, 2008 inside the Christian cemetery already built) seems to have provided new support to the project, explains Union President Ahmed El Hanafy.

The new cemetery would allow the believers to save the huge costs of sending the corpses back to their countries of origin. “We are not speaking about immigrants, but of the new generations, of Vitorian Muslims who want to be buried according to Islamic rituals“, says El Hanafy.

Police arrest 13 suspected militants linked to Al-Qaeda’s North African branch

Police in northern Spain have arrested 13 suspected Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda’s branch in North Africa. Searches have been conducted in the homes of the arrested, as part of the night operation launched in the Basque city of Bilbao. “The 13 formed a group dedicated to robbery and drug trafficking. “The police are investigating if the suspects diverted funds they obtained from criminal activities to finance Islamic terrorism in Algeria,” said a statement released by Spain’s interior Ministry. Receipts of money transfers, stolen passport, stolen gold and solver, computers, mobile phones, and knives were among the seized evidence. Police said that the operation was “linked to Al-Qaeda,” but gave no further operation – the investigation is ongoing. According to reports, those held are primarily of Algerian and Moroccan background.

The significance of this turn of events and article points to the deeply intertwined motivations of suspected terror linkages, and state investigations. Spain, in recent years, has been known to make sweeps of arrests with a primary charge (forgery, robbery, for example), with an addendum of possible connection to terror activity; and frequently, later altering accusations of suspects. As such, this investigation provides an important look into not only the transnationalism of possible terror activity, but poses questions about Spanish security investigations, and their level of veracity.