Re-imagining European Identity Politics and the Social Integration of Muslims

In this timely work, Alexander Castilla deconstructs the myth of the so-called clash of Islam and democracy, and examines the forces involving the social integration and religious accommodation of Muslims in Catalonia, Spain during the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States and the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks in Spain. In adapting to the pressures of globalization and to their own religiously plural, yet increasingly secular society, the Catalans sought to strike a delicate balance between the accommodation and integration of Muslims, while building on Catalonia’s nation building project which focused on the historical continuity of Catalan language and culture.

Re-imagining European Identity Politics and the Social Integration of Muslims defines how the claims of immigrant Muslims influence the ongoing construction of a Catalan national identity. It also explores the primary demands for religious accommodation which Muslims sought in the beginning of the 21st century and why it is necessary to separate political and religious powers. Looking at the role of Muslim religious leaders in the context of secular society is of particular significance because the contemporary issues surrounding the separation of politics and religion is far from being resolved not only in Catalonia, but also in greater Spain and in other European countries with significant Muslim communities such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland and France.

Re-imagining European Identity Politics and the Social Integration of Muslims represents the first comprehensive study in English about the social integration of Muslims living in Catalonia and combines an historical, socio-political and philosophical analysis about Islam and democracy and contributes to the literature on peace and security studies, as well as to studies of migration, citizenship and nationalism.

Published by VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, the book is now available on Amazon.com.

The reorganization of Muslim associations in Catalonia

The article is an overview of the system of representation for Muslim communities in Catalonia. The most important Muslim federation in Catalonia is the CICC (The Islamic and Cultural Council of Catalonia). The CICC was created in 2001 and currently is the principal Muslim liason with the Catalan government. There are other Islamic associations too, some of which are critical of the work being done by the CICC.

Recently the CICC has created a controversial travel agency which organizes annual pilgrimages to Mecca. Critics of the CICC see this agency as a private business and not a religious organization.

Currently there are two other Muslim federations; one is still in the project stages having broken off from the CICC and the other, the UCIC, is a part of UCIDE. The fragmentation of Muslim communities, combined with other factors, such as the influence of the Moroccan government makes it difficult to have only one federation as the privileged liason with the Catalan government.

Islamic communities condemn kidnapping of Catalan aid workers

Several Spanish Muslim communities have made public their condemnation of the recent abduction of three Catalans in Mauritania. The three aid workers were part of Barcelona Acción Solidaria, Albert Vilalta, Roque Pascual and Alicia Gomez, were kidnapped on Sunday 29th November in Mauritania. The abduction has been claimed by al Qaida. The Muslim communities of Murcia and Catalonia have expressed their condemnation of this action with two press releases.

Catalan education centre plan for immigrants fuels controversy

The Ombudsman Office warned that plans to set up education centers for immigrant children in Catalonia, would risk creating ghettos. “It would be terrible [for ghettos to be created] during an important formative period such as attending school,” said Ombudswoman Mar_a Luisa Cava de Llano. “Under no circumstances do I want this to turn into a tool for segregation.” In early July, the Catalan government announced plans to create four Education Welcome Centers for foreigners, opening in September. Labor Unions and immigrant organizations have spoken out against the plan, citing an affront to the Spanish education system, which favors racial segregation. SOS Racismo stated that these centers run the risk of eliminating the notion of integration from within the educational centre and reinforcing resources at existing schools is a preferable route.

The Islamic Catalan Council will participate in the Summer University for Women

The first Summer University for Women will be open this year to receive all women who wish to learn more about gender equal opportunities and to exchange ideas and opinions on the subject. The initiative is a responsibility of the Barcelona University and the Ayuntamiento de Cornell_. The Islamic Catalan Council will participate in a course entitled The voice of the women in different religions, with a session dedicated to the Sufi spirituality.

Immigrant numbers to be limited across Catalan schools; Valencia sets up ‘contract of integration’

Newly drafted laws in the Catalonia region of Spain will limit immigrants in public and other colleges as part of a regional education law. The law will permit different percentages of foreigners in certain education areas, and those areas with too few foreigners will be able to increase the number of positions by up to 10% to let more in. What this means, however, is that a fixed limit on the number of foreigners in each area will be imposed, with the intent to avoid growing ghettos and slums. Meanwhile, a contract of integration will be set up for immigrants in the Valencia region. The contract would be part of a future regional immigrant integration law, as immigrants would have to sign the _contract for integration’ – described as an assumed model of coexistence and local values. Immigration and Citizenship Councillor Rafael Blasco described Valencia as a land open to all, provided residents are integrated in local values, customs, and traditions, so that the social cohesion of the region is not lost.

Catholic Church critical of Catalan law protecting the establishment of mosques

Building a space of worship is no longer an impossible undertaking, be it a church, mosque, or synagogue – The Generalitit of Catalonia has approved a law that aims to eliminate the discretion of town halls, while at the same time, authorizing the opening of places of worship. The law suggests that health and safety measures must meet minimum oratories, and municipalities must set aside land for spaces of worship in new urban plans. This plan of equal religious treatment has outraged the Catholic Church. Concern of the law was cited, as the Bishop of Urgell stated that various places of worship have a different nature, content, and specific and different purposes.

Islam and Catalan

The presence of new Catalans that express religious and cultural distinctive sensitivities are a challenge to the Catalan society. A recent symposium about Islam and Catalonia organized by the Islamic Catalan Council, debated the sentiment and the ideology behind the two parts. In Catalonia there are more than 200,000 immigrants coming from a Muslim background. Nevertheless, one must pay attention to the particular features of the Catalan society, namely its sense of autonomy and being a part of the globalized world. As such, the debate praised the need to build a society that is open to receive this cultural and social change.

The Catalan Islamic Council Warns of the Dangers of Connecting Politics and Terrorism

The Catalan Islamic Council claims that the overlap between politics and so-called Islamic terrorism in Catalonia and the association of Islam and violence by authorities foments the radicalization of the youth sectors of the Islamic community. The Catalan Islamic Council’s president, Abdennur Prado, believes that the declarations of a police syndicate group stating the proliferation of jihad’s groups in Catalonia were very irresponsible. He adds that the fight against radicals has to be more discrete and the law enforcement has to be harsher.