Radical Islam in Spain: Summary of the Real Instituto Elcano Report

November 18, 2013


1) Seven out of ten Spanish jihadists become radicalized in Spain (homegrown terrorists).

2) They are concentrated in Madrid, Catalonia, Valencia and Ceuta.

3) It takes four to five years to become terrorists.

How are jihadist terrorists radicalized in Spain ? How long does it take them ? Where does this happens? These are some of the answers offered by the Real Instituto Elcano in an investigation that has just been published and signed by experts Fernando Reinares and Carola García-Calvo, who have been assessing Islamist terrorism cases from 1996 to 2012 .

The most striking finding of the report is that radicalization has become a “native” phenomenon in Spain: seven out of ten of those who become jihadists do it on Spanish territory. In terms of age, radicalism has greater impact on those under 30 years with  individuals in their twenties  being the most vulnerable.

However, it is not a widespread phenomenon throughout Spain. 90 per cent of Salafi radicalization cases have been recorded in particular in Madrid, Valencia , Catalonia and Ceuta, places where there is a large Muslim community.

During the research, the authors found a singularity of the ‘ Spanish ‘ phenomenon compared to other countries, as for example in the UK : most cases of recruitment and radicalization does not occur in places of worship, like mosques or Islamic cultural centers, but in private homes.

Once the individual begins the process of radicalization, which is “not irreversible” says the report of the Instituto Elcano, it takes between four and five years before he or she starts acting.

In what concerns the number of women participating in Jihadist activities in Spain, the report offers no indication.


El confidencial digital: http://www.elconfidencialdigital.com/seguridad/Chequeo-radicalismo-islamico-Espana_0_2167583228.html


Full report in Spanish: http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/rielcano/contenido?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/elcano/elcano_es/zonas_es/dt16-2013-reinares-gciacalvo-radicalizacion-terrorismo-yihadista-espana

Death of Mansur Escudero, an historical Spanish Muslim figure

On October 3, Mansur Escudero died at the age of 62 years in his house of Almodovar del Río (Cordoba). Mansur, who converted to Islam at the end of the 70s, was an important advocate of the legal recognition of Islam in Spain. He was cofounder and president of the FEERI (the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities) and Junta Islámica de España. Mansur was a prominent Islamic leader and contributed to the Agreement of Cooperation between the Spanish State and the Islamic Commission in 1992. He also founded “Verde Islam” journal and the website “Webislam”, currently one of the most important online resources about Islam in Spanish language.

The girl who was expelled for wearing the hijab registers at another school

Najwa Malhat, a 16 years old Muslim girl, who was expelled from her school for wearing a headscarf last week, has been allowed to register at another public school. The first school that Nawja was assigned to has suddenly changed its Internal Regulation in order to forbid the wearing of head coverings inside the center, including the hijab. Finally, Najwa has been admitted to another school and is currently attending normal classes.

Hijab debate: A 16 year old is expelled from school for wearing the hijab

In February, 16 year old Muslim Najwa Malha decided, on her own according to the father (president of the Pozuelo Islamic Cultural Center and of the association that holds the local Mosque) to start wearing the headscarf. Nawja is Spanish of Moroccan origin and attends the Instituto Camilo José Cela at the Madrid locality Pozuelo de Alarcón. This week, stating that Article 32 of the schools Internal Regulation prohibits the wearing of provocative clothing and head coverings (a measure put in legal norms to prevent the use of caps and hats in the classrooms), the school board decides to prohibit Najwa of attending class while wearing the headscarf. However the board allowed Najwa to remain inside the school premises although confined to the visiting room. In the following days, as a solidarity gesture, some of her colleagues and friends start attending school with headscarves and hoods covering their heads. Although an extraordinary school board was held to debate Najwa’s return to class (as a consequence of the media pressure) a majority of participants voted against her return with the headscarf, and actions were taken to assure her transfer to a nearby school (Instituto San Juan de la Cruz) that accepts the use of this garment. At present time Najwa has stopped attending school and is confined at home with an anxiety medical situation.

Legal actions taken:
– The family presents a legal complaint to the Consejería de Educación (Comunidad de Madrid). The Consejería supports the schools decision.

Official positions:
– Regional government (Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid), held by the right-wing Popular Party (PP) sustains that the schools autonomy and the power of the school Board to decide its internal rules concerning this and every other matter should prevail.
– National government, held by the left-wing Socialist Party (PSOE), have a dubious position. The Minister of Education has stated that the right to ones own image, the right to religious freedom and the right to an education should prevail over the prohibition to use the headscarf. He also differentiates between the presence of a Christian (Catholic) Cross in a class-room as a collective symbol from the headscarf as a personal symbol. The Minister of Justice, much in the same line, appeals for tolerance. In a discrepant voice the Minister of Equality states the possible negative meaning of the headscarf for women liberation but demands respect and tolerance.

Support actions taken:
– UCIDE (Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España) directs a letter to the schools principal claiming Najwa right to wear the hijab.
– FEERI (Federación Española de Entidades Religiosas Islámicas) directs a letter to the Minister of Justice claiming Najwa religious rights.
– ATIME (Asociación de Trabajadores Inmigrantes Marroquíes de España) makes a public communication to the media against the schools action.
– “Apoya a Najwa Malha” Facebook page is created to collect signatures for a formal protest.
– The Spanish Muslim Federation (FME), leaded by Yusuf Fernández, has announced that they will appeal to the Constitutional Court (the Spanish supreme body for interpreting the Constitution) because they think that the school measure violates Najwa’s fundamental rights (religious freedom).

Thousands students from Spanish public schools could be interested in Islamic lessons

Currently in Spain, there are only 46 instructors who teach Islam in public schools. Such Islamic instruction is financed by the Spanish government in accordance with the CIE (Comisión Islámica de España), who chooses the staff that provides the Islamic lessons. According to the estimations of the CIE, there are approximately 120,000 students in Spain, who could be interested in taking Islamic studies courses. If this data is accurate, then the public demand would be much higher than what is currently being offered. However, according to a lecturer of ecclesiastical law, Ricardo García, the insufficient offerings of Islamic courses are a result of the Islamic community’s internal problems. With such an argument he absolves the Spanish government of any responsibility to remedy the situation.

Cordoba Mosque incident was an isolated anecdote

Both representatives of the government and local socialist leaders have referred to the Cordoba Mosque incident as unusual, and not at all representative of the intentions of the Muslims living in Spain. According to the quoted authorities there is no fear of repetition of the situation.

Mezquita de Córdoba incident

An incident between Muslim tourists and guards employed by Cordoba mosque broke out when the visitors started to pray in the building, which is a former mosque that was converted into a Christian cathedral.
Demetrio Fernández, the bishop of the cathedral, recently insisted on the ban of Muslim prayers in the Christian cathedral. But members of a group of more than a 100 Muslims from Austria had started praying when security guards ordered them to stop. Upon their refusal to oblige by the security guards’ invitation to halt prayers, police were called in to remedy the situation.

Two visitors were arrested as a result of the incident.

Islam in Spain

written by Fernando Bravo

Demographics and Immigration
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It is difficult to estimate the size of the Muslim population living in Spain. Available statistics do not distinguish population according to faith, which means we can only estimate quantity using national origin or national identity as sign of religious adherence. This implies a certain margin of error and, indirectly, a certain “ethnification” of Islamic identity that would be determined by ancestry or national origin on the basis of this method, rather than by religious faith.

This should be taken into consideration before drawing any conclusions from the statistics that we will go on to present. Properly speaking we are going to speak about Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese, Pakistanis, etc., and not about Muslims.

If we take the statistics of Spanish and Foreign population coming from, or nationals of, countries with a Muslim majority population (where the Muslim population is estimated at more than 50% of the total population according to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (((2009): “Mapping the global Muslim population. A report on the size and distribution of the world’s Muslim population”, The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, october, http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=451 [last view: 22 December 2009].))), we obtain the following figures:

[table id=36 /]

*Source: National Statistics Institute (INE: http://www.ine.es). Municipal Register, 1 January 2009. Compiled by Fernando Bravo.

As seen in the table, speaking about “Muslims” in Spain means speaking mainly about Moroccans.

In addition to that figure, the number of converts is uncertain because there is no reliable source. ((There have been some estimates. A newspaper report said that the Muslim convert population was 2.5% of the total Muslim population in Spain (1 million); see MOLINA, MARTA (2007): “Nuevos musulmanes”, en El País, 31 July. Juan José Escobar Stemmann said that it was a 2%, without providing any source; see ESCOBAR STEMMANN, JUAN J. (2008): “Activismo islámico en España”, Política Exterior, nº 124, pp. 67-81.)) But they are certainly a minority compared with Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese, or Pakistanis.

We could conclude that the total “Muslim” population in Spain could be approaching 1,200,000, representing 2.5% of the total population in Spain (46,661,950 on 1 January 2009 according to the INE Municipal Register). But we should remember that this way of proceeding has many problems. For example, although there is an important quantity of Nigerians and although we have included them in the table, we should bear in mind that the Muslim population in Nigeria is estimated at 50.4% of the total population, so there is a high probability that the Nigerian population in Spain could be Christian. Therefore, we could say that 1,000,000 would be a very generous estimate of the number of Muslims in Spain.

Nearly 90% of the total “Muslim” population is made up of foreign nationals. Of these, Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese and Pakistanis together make up 86% of the total. For this reason, we will only speak about Moroccans, Senegalese, Algerians and Pakistanis in order to make an approximation to the “Muslim” population demographic profile.

All of these four communities show a similar tendency in their quantitative evolution. Although the Moroccan community is much larger than the rest, they have all been growing fast since the mid-1990s.


The figures that we have showed until now come from the Municipal Register, which collects data that includes all residents in each municipality, regardless of their legal status (regular and irregular immigrants alike). But, contrary to what is commonly thought, “Muslim” immigration in Spain shows a high percentage of legality. Since 1996 the percentage of legality among Moroccan immigrants has always been higher than 74% and it is currently the highest among the different immigrant communities, of whatever origin. In the next graph we compare the figures of Moroccans in Spain provided by the Municipal Register with those of Moroccan immigrants with a residence permit:


For the rest of the four main communities, the percentage of legality has sometimes been lower, but never less than 50%.

The spatial distribution of “Muslims” in Spain is not homogeneous. The four provinces of Catalonia, especially Barcelona (see map of reference), and the provinces of Madrid, Almeria, Murcia, and the three provinces of the Autonomous Region of Valencia concentrate the majority of the population. But all provinces in Spain have a “Muslim” population, never less than 500 “Muslims”.

Moroccans live mainly in Catalonia —specifically in the province of Barcelona— where more than 30% of the total Moroccan population live; but also in Andalusia —mainly in the province of Almeria— in Madrid, in the Autonomous Region of Valencia —particularly in the province of Alicante— and in Murcia.


More than 30% of Algerians live in the Autonomous Region of Valencia — in the provinces of Alicante and Valencia, especially. Catalonia, Andalusia and Aragon have also a high quantity of Algerians, but much less than Valencia.

Catalonia is also the main destination for Pakistani settlement (much more than anywhere else), with over 60% of the total Pakistani population residing there.

And finally Catalonia also has the highest population of Senegalese (33% of the total population), followed by Andalusia, the Autonomous Region of Valencia and Madrid.
Catalonia is therefore the main centre of “Muslim” settlement in Spain, especially the province of Barcelona with a joint population of Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese and Pakistani of 178,476 people, representing 15% of the total “Muslim” population in Spain.

In the big cities the “Muslim” population represents a relatively small percentage of the total population. In Barcelona, the city with the biggest resident “Muslim” population (Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese and Pakistanis number 30,814), they represent a 1.9% of the total population. However, in the small town of Manlleu (also in the province of Barcelona), they represent a 16.8% of the total population (20,505). This tendency can be observed in the rest of Spain. We have Madrid with 0.9% of “Muslim” population, but we also have Humanes de Madrid (a small town near Madrid) with 5.04% of “Muslim” population. We always find the higher concentration of “Muslim” population in agrarian villages like Talayuela (in the province of Caceres, with 9,282 inhabitants) with 25.8% of “Muslim” population, or small cities like El Ejido (with an eminently agrarian economy, in the province of Almeria) with a population of 80,987 inhabitants in which the “Muslim” population represents 19.5% of the total population. ((All figures from INE, Municipal Register, 1 January 2008.))

In big cities like Barcelona or Madrid, the concentration in certain neighbourhoods is higher, but never that high. In Madrid, for example, we find the highest concentration in the Embajadores neighbourhood (in the city centre, with a total population of 49,754 inhabitants), with 9.61% of “Muslim” population (and, incidentally, a very important community of Bangladeshis). ((All figures from Ayuntamiento de Madrid [Madrid City Council], Municipal Register, 1 January 2008, http://www.munimadrid.es/estadistica/. )) The “Muslim” population in big cities tends to be concentrated in deprived neighbourhoods, with a long history of immigration (national and international alike). Here, the concentration of immigrant population (of any origin) is usually very high, giving it a strongly multicultural character.

Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese and Pakistanis, all show very different age and sex distribution, due to their different immigration history. The Moroccan community is the most long-standing immigrant community in Spain as a result of which it has a more feminine character than the others:


The rest, Senegalese, Algerians and Pakistanis, show the typical pyramids of recent immigrant communities: mainly men of working age. The Moroccan pyramid still has that profile, but it also has a high number of women and children. It also shows the existence of a small quantity of elders, totally absent in the other three communities. In the Moroccan case, this reflects family formation and the stabilization of the community.

Labor Market
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It is the Moroccan community that has more workers affiliated to the Social Security than any other immigrant community: 238,048 (over the 227,690 Romanians). That means that 33.5% of the total Moroccan population is affiliated to the Social Security, a slightly lower rate than the total population average rate (38% affiliated).

Algerians and Senegalese show an even lower rate of affiliation (29% and 28% respectively), but Pakistanis show a rate similar to that of Moroccans (33.8%).

The great majority of “Muslim” workers affiliated to the Social Security are employees. Just a small minority of the affiliated are self-employed (5.9% of Senegalese, 6.3% of Algerians and 6.9% of Moroccans). Only Pakistanis show a different picture, because 15.3% of them are self-employed. ((All figures from Anuario Estadístico de Inmigración [Yearbook of Immigration Statistics], 2008, Madrid, Secretaría de Estado de Inmigración y Emigración, 2009, http://extranjeros.mtas.es/es/InformacionEstadistica/Anuarios/Anuario2008.html.))

The main sector of employment is services. The construction sector has traditionally been an important source of employment for immigrants, and still is, but its importance has heavily decreased owing to the current housing market crisis. This crisis has heavily affected immigrants, of all origins. In the case of Moroccans, Algerians, Pakistanis and Senegalese, their rate of affiliation to the Social Security has decreased since 2007, as we can see in the following tables:

“Muslims” affiliated to the Social Security by sector of employment
[table id=35 /]
[table id=37 /]

Source: Anuario estadístico de inmigración, 2007 and 2008, Secretaría de Estado de Inmigración y Emigración, Ministry of Employment and Immigration. Compiled by Fernando Bravo.

In fact, the current financial crisis has affected “Muslims” working in all sectors. Their presence in services, industry and construction has decreased in the last two years. But, at the same time, the presence of Moroccans, Algerians and Senegalese in agriculture has increased somewhat, possibly on account of having transferred from other sectors.

Within the services sector, Moroccans are preferentially employed in the commerce sub-sector (22,498), and the hospitality industry sub-sector (22,127). On the other hand, within the industry sector they are specially concentrated in the manufacturing industry sub-sector (18,528).

In the case of Algerians, they also are specially concentrated in the services sector and, within it, in the real-estate market sub-sector (1,840) and the commerce sub-sector (1,509). But among sub-sectors, the one where most Algerians are employed is the manufacturing industry (2,017).

Senegalese are also heavily concentrated in the manufacturing industry sub-sector (2,502). Within the services sector, Senegalese are employed in the real-state market sub-sector (1,631) and the commerce sub-sector (1,531).

Finally, Pakistanis are employed specially in the hospitality industry (3,752) and commerce (1,920) sub-sectors.

Apart from these figures, we also have to take into consideration that there might be a relatively high proportion of immigrants working in the “informal sector”, but we have no grounds on which to base speculations in this respect.

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There are no data concerning the housing of the “Muslim” population specifically. We can only infer their situation from the general situation of the immigrant population according to a published survey.

According to the Colectivo IOÉ, 87% of the immigrant population from East Europe, Africa and South America lives in rented accommodation. In other words, the remaining 13% are house owners. Of this 87%, 30% rents an entire house, while 47% lives in subleased houses, in which they only rent a room or share the rent with other people. This is the case especially for newcomers. ((COLECTIVO IOÉ (Carlos Pereda, Walter Actis y Miguel Ángel de Prada) (2005): Inmigración y vivienda en España, Madrid, Observatorio Permanente de la Inmigración, pp. 200-201.))

It is interesting to note that, according to the aforementioned survey, a majority of those polled think that the house they left in their home countries is bigger (84%), more comfortable (81%), and quieter (72%), than the house in which they live now. ((Ibid., p. 203.))

The concentration of immigrant population per neighbourhood depends on the economic situation of the neighbourhood. In the richer neighbourhoods immigrants are scarcely present. However, in the poorer neighbourhoods their concentration is very high. ((Ibid.))

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The presence of “Muslims” in the education system is high. The Moroccan is the largest immigrant community in the education system, especially in pre-school and primary education, where Moroccans represent 22% and 16.4% of the total immigrant population at both educational levels. However the situation is different in terms of secondary education, where Moroccans represent the second-biggest immigrant community (12.6%) after Ecuadorians (17.2% of the total immigrant population in secondary education). The situation is even more alarming at Baccalaureate level, where the Moroccans only represent the fourth-biggest community with 5.4% of the total immigrant population, following Ecuadorians (15.4%), Colombians (9.5%), Romanians (8.8%) and Argentineans (6%). At the level of vocational training, the situation is slightly better: Moroccans are the third-biggest community (11.3%), after Ecuadorians (15.6%) and Colombians (11.4%). In the Social Guaranty Program (a vocational training program designed for people who have completed their secondary education without achieving the academic objectives corresponding to that level), Moroccans have the highest percentage (29.5%), far from the 16.8% of Ecuadorians. Therefore, while Moroccans and Ecuadorians have a similar population in the education system, Moroccans are worse off once they pass the primary-education level.

“Muslims” in the education system
(Not university level. As compared with other communities)

[table id=34 /]

Source: Estadísticas Enseñanzas no Universitarias – Resultados Detallados – Curso 2007-2008, Ministry of Education, http://www.educacion.es/. Compiled by Fernando Bravo.
* FP: Formación Profesional (Vocational training).
** Prog. GS: Social Guaranty Program.

The rest of the “Muslim” communities are scarcely represented in the education system because, as we saw earlier, their population of under-16 year-olds is very small. The Senegalese, despite having a smaller population within the educational system than that of Algerians, Argentineans, Chinese and Pakistanis, represent a higher percentage of the immigrant population in the Program of Social Guaranty.

Apart from the figures already shown, it may be said that the great majority of the immigrant population (including, of course, “Muslims”) attend public schools (82.7%), public schools representing 73% of the total number of schools in Spain. ((http://www.educacion.es/mecd/estadisticas/educativas/dcce/Datos_Cifras_web.pdf.))

State and Church
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Legally speaking, Spain is neutral vis-à-vis Religious confessions. Its 1978 Constitution established that “no religion shall have a state character. The public authorities shall take into account the beliefs of Spanish society and shall consequently maintain appropriate cooperation relations with the Catholic Church and other confessions” (section 16.3).

It is also stated that “freedom of ideology, religion and worship is guaranteed, to individuals and communities with no other restriction on their expression than may be necessary to maintain public order as protected by law” (section 16.1). So Spain is constitutionally a secular State where freedom of religion and thought is both recognised and protected.

In addition to what the constitution stipulates, in 1980 a Religious Liberty Law was approved. The Religious Liberty Law develops what the Constitution already says. It stipulates, for example, the necessity for religious communities to be registered at the Ministry of Justice’s Registry of Religious Entities in order to be recognised by the State as entities with “legal personality”. Among other things, following the constitutional command to “maintain appropriate cooperation” with religious confessions, it also established that the State “shall establish, as appropriate, Cooperation Agreements or Conventions with the Churches, Faiths or Religious Communities enrolled in the Registry where warranted by their notorious influence in Spanish society, due to their domain or number of followers” (article 7.1).

This “notorious influence” is what in the original text is called “notorio arraigo”. “Notorio arraigo” is a status given by the State to a religious confession that recognises that it is deeply rooted in Spain. It is a legal artifice that, in practice, discriminates some religions in their relationship with the State. Their lack of recognition by the State prevents them from enjoying the “same benefits and privileges as other groups with ‘deeply rooted status’”. ((See “International Religious Freedom Report 2009”, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127338.htm.))

In other words, it is only confessions with “notorio arraigo” that can sign an agreement of cooperation with the State. In practice only four confessions have done so: the Catholic Church, The Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE), and the Federation of Religious Evangelical Entities of Spain (FEREDE). The Catholic Church signed the agreement in 1979, the others in 1992. ((See the agreements (in Spanish) in the Ministry of Justice web page.))

No agreement of cooperation exists for the other confessions, although some of them have been recognised by the State as religions with “notorio arraigo”. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (in 2003), Jehova’s Witnesses and Buddhists (in 2007), have won recognition as confessions with “notorio arraigo”, but they have not signed an agreement of cooperation with the State similar to that of Muslims, Jews and Evangelicals. That turns their recognition as confession with “notorio arraigo” into dead letter. In addition, the confessions that have not won recognition as confessions with “notorio arraigo” are in an even worse situation of disadvantage.

However, neither recognition of “notorio arraigo” nor the establishment of an agreement of cooperation with the State guarantees actual cooperation, not even the practical recognition of the rights that the agreements stipulate. It was not until recently that the main articles of the agreements of cooperation were put into practice and true cooperation between the State and the Muslim, Evangelical and Jewish communities began.

In all events, the Catholic Church has always received preferential treatment at the hands of the State. In the symbolic sphere in particular, Catholicism has a heavy presence. Institutions like the Crown, some town halls, some public schools, or some public hospitals, although they are State institutions and despite the neutrality the Constitution mandates, publicly identify themselves with Catholicism and its symbols. The presence of Catholic churchmen (and Catholic churchmen only) in institutional ceremonies, and the presence of representatives of State institutions in Catholic ceremonies (and in Catholic ceremonies only) is commonplace.

Muslim in Politics
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The presence of Muslims in politics is very small. There is a member of the Catalonian Parliament, member of the Socialist Party, Mohammed Chaib. There are city councillors in the Assembly of the Autonomous city of Ceuta, both in the Socialist Party and the Popular Party, ((See a list of the members of the Assembly: http://www.ceuta.es/servlet/ContentServer?isP=CI-InfoInsPage&pagename=CeutaIns%2FPage%2FDiputadosAsamblea&p_pag=DiputadosAsamblea&cid=1120557358018.)) and also in the Assembly of the Autonomous city of Melilla. ((See http://www.melilla.es/melillaPortal/fdes_d4_v2.jsp?contenido=51&tipo=6&nivel=1400&pagina=home&language=es&codMenu=234&codMenuPN=231. )) There is also a Muslim city councillor (member of the Popular Party) in a small town in Seville: Gines. ((http://www.webislam.com/?idt=10096.))

In October 2099 the first Islamic party of Spain was created in Granada:
the Party of Renaissance and Union of Spain (PRUNE). After its creation
the party opened delegations in other parts of Spain, but it has very
few supporters. Its importance within the Islamic community in Spain is
negligible. ((See http://www.partidoprune.org/))

Muslim Organizations
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The first Muslim organizations were created in the cities of Ceuta and Melilla (the Spanish autonomous cities in the North of Africa). ((On the contemporary history of Islam in Spain see PLANET CONTRERAS, ANA I. (1998): Ceuta y Melilla. Espacios-frontera hispano-marroquíes, Melilla y Ceuta, Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla, Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta, UNED-Melilla, pp. 107-114; PLANET CONTRERAS, ANA I. (2001): “Un colectivo islámico en la España de hoy. Del sucursalismo a la desobediencia: musulmanes y comportamientos políticos en Melilla”, Anales de Historia Contemporánea, nº 17, pp. 485-500; LÓPEZ GARCÍA, BERNABÉ y PLANET CONTRERAS, ANA I. (2002): “Islam in Spain”, in HUNTER, SHIREEN T. (ed.): Islam, Europe’s second religion. The new social, cultural, and political landscape, Westport (Connecticut), Praeger, pp. 157-174; PLANET CONTRERAS, ANA I. (2008): “Islam e inmigración: elementos para un análisis y propuestas de gestión”, in PLANET CONTRERAS, ANA I. and MORERAS, JORDI (eds.): Islam e inmigración, Madrid, Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, pp. 9-52; ARIGITA, ELENA (2006): “Representing Islam in Spain: Muslim Identities and the Contestation of Leadership”, The Muslim World, vol 96, nº 4, pp. 563-584; MORERAS, JORDI (2002): “Muslims in Spain: between the historical heritage and the minority construction”, The Muslim World, vol 92, nº 1-2, pp. 129-142.)) The first one that registered at the Ministry of Justice’s Registry of Religious Entities was the Muslim Association of Melilla in 1968 (right after the promulgation of the Franquist Religious Liberty Law of 1967). Soon after that, in 1971, the Mohamadia-Mahoma Muslim Zawiya of Ceuta also registered.

On the other hand, a little earlier, the Jamaat Ahmadia of Islam in Spain was created in Pedro Abad, in the province of Córdoba (Andalusia), followed by the creation a year later in Madrid of the Muslim Association of Spain (AME). Both associations were founded by students who had arrived in Spain in the 1960s and 1970s from Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt, as a result of the rapprochement policy between the Franquist and the Middle East countries during that period.

Later on, after Franco’s death and the establishment of democracy, but one year before the promulgation of the Religious Liberty Law of 1980, the Muslim Community of Spain was registered at the Ministry of Justice’s Registry. This association was created in Madrid and was led by Álvaro Machordom Comins.

Right after the promulgation of the Religious Liberty Law, new Muslim associations came into being. A good many of them were led and made up by converts that played an important role during the first years of the process of institutionalization of Islam in Spain. However, already in the early 1980s some associations made up by immigrant communities began to be organized. It is the case, among others, of the Autonomous Muslim Association of Jaen and Province, registered at the Ministry’s Registry in 1983, with headquarters in the town of Linares and created by Pakistani immigrants employed at the mining industry.

After the promulgation of the Religious Liberty Law, the first steps were taken with a view to signing Agreements of Cooperation between the Spanish State and the Jewish, Evangelical and Muslim confessions.

The first condition required by law in order to sign such agreements was that those confessions had the recognition of “notorio arraigo”. In the case of Islam, the Advisory Commission on Religious Freedom approved the recognition of Islam as a deeply rooted confession on 14 July 1989. By that time, Protestants and Jews had already achieved this status.

But the signing of the agreements was subject to the existence of a single representative of Islam in Spain, a condition laid down by the Spanish government. To this end, days before the recognition of Islam as a confession with “notorio arraigo” in Spain, the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) was created. It was composed originally of nine Islamic religious associations with headquarters in Madrid, Granada, Seville, Almeria, Ceuta and Melilla.

A few months after, the Muslim Association of Spain (the same association that in April 1989 had submitted an official request to the Government for the recognition of Islam as a confession with “notorio arraigo”) created the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE).

The State’s insistence on the presence of a single interlocutor coupled with the lack of harmony between the two federations (FEERI and UCIDE) —something that continues today—, resulted in the need to create an Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE) as an interlocutor with the State. The two federations were kept as independent entities within the CIE and the leading posts within the Commission were distributed equally between them. There are therefore two General Secretaries, one for each federation, and four speakers, two from each of the Federations. In fact the two federations operate independently and the CIE meets only when dialogue with the State is needed.

In April 1992, the cooperation agreement between the Spanish State and the Islamic Commission of Spain was signed, but until recently it has not been put in practice. Islam was not an issue to care about. The bombings on 11 March 2004 were, paradoxically, the incentive for the State to have a higher grade of cooperation with the Islamic community in Spain. The conviction that the bombings were inspired by some uncontrolled radical imam in some “clandestine” mosque pushed the Government to initiate a new policy concerning the Islamic community. ((For several months after the bombings, the Government was under heavy pressure to control mosques and what was said there. See, for example, (2004): “José Antonio Alonso, Ministro del Interior: «Es necesaria una ley para poder controlar a los imames de las pequeñas mezquitas»”, El País, 2 May; (2004): “La Comisión Islámica califica de disparate el control de los imames”, El País, 3 May; (2004): “El Gobierno quiere llevar la ley de control de imames radicales al Pacto Antiterrorista”, El País, 4 May; (2004): “El Gobierno carece de un registro de imames y de mezquitas para controlar a los islamistas”, El País, 5 May; (2004): “El Gobierno estudia una reforma legal para el control de mezquitas e imames”, El País, 8 May; See also the 6 May 2004 op-ed piece “Interior de las mezquitas”, also in El País.))

Soon it became clear that the Registry of Religious Entities at the Ministry of Justice was inefficient in terms of providing a clear picture of the number of mosques in Spain and their location (because registry is not compulsory, nor the data update). So, in order to encourage the inscription of mosques and religious associations in the Registry, the Government initiated a policy of funding projects made by religious communities (not just Islamic, but any religious community affiliated to any of the Federations that signed an agreement of cooperation with the State). In order to pursue that aim, the Government created the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation [Fundación Pluralismo y Convivencia]. Now the State funds projects implemented by individual religious communities, which does to some extent remedy their disadvantage with respect to the privileged status of the Catholic Church, which receives state funds directly (not linked to the execution of any specific project).

The result of all that has been an important increase in the number of Islamic “entities” registered at the Ministry’s Registry (see maps below). So, while there has been an important change in recent years, it has occurred mainly as a result of security concerns, and only secondarily to repair the discrimination that minorities have suffered in Spain.

During these years in which the State has sought a more frequent dialogue with the representatives of the Muslim community in Spain, the lack of representativeness of the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE) has become clear. ((On the situation of the Islamic Commission of Spain see ARIGITA: “Representing Islam in Spain”. On the foundation of new regional federations see the case of Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha in LÓPEZ GARCÍA, BERNABÉ, et al. (2007): Arraigados. Minorías religiosas en la Comunidad de Madrid, Madrid, Icaria; GARCÍA ORTIZ, PUERTO, et al. (2009): “Comunidades islámicas”, in GARCÍA ORTIZ, PUERTO y HERNANDO DE LARRAMENDI MARTÍNEZ, MIGUEL (eds.): Religion.es: minorías religiosas en Castilla-La Mancha, Barcelona y Madrid, Icaria y Fundación Pluralismo y Convivencia, pp. 245-278.)) Those communities that feel dissatisfied with the management of the CIE, or do not feel represented by it, have begun to create their own federations, some of them with a marked regional character. In December 2009, a total of 23 Islamic Federative Entities were registered in the Register of Religious Entities of the Ministry of Justice. Besides FEERI, UCIDE, and the CIE itself, and also the 10 regional federations that UCIDE has created during the last years (in Ceuta, Aragon, Valencia, Madrid, the Basque Country, Extremadura, Murcia, Catalonia, Castile-Leon and in Castile-La Mancha), the following federations are registered: Islamic Commission of Melilla, Islamic Council of Valencia, Islamic Federation of the Autonomous Region of the Balearic Islands, Muslim Federation of Spain (FEME), Islamic Federation of Murcia, Higher Islamic Council of the Autonomous Region of Valencia (CISCOVA), Federation of Muslim Communities of Castile-La Mancha, Spanish Islamic Federation of Catalonia (FICDE), and the more recently created Federation of Sub-Saharan Muslim Communities for Dialogue, Culture and Rights (FEDICD), and the Islamic Centre of Catalonia.

With the exception of the Islamic Commission of Melilla, established in 1989 and composed of four communities (Muslim Religious Association, Muslim Religious Council, Muslim Community of Melilla and Association Badr), all these associations came into being after 2005 (especially in 2008 and 2009). The creation of these federations is mainly explained by the lack of representativeness of FEERI and UCIDE and its inoperability in search of a better dialogue with the regional administrations. Among the reasons that have led to the creation of these new federations the existence of different ideological positions cannot be ignored.

In late 2006 the Platform of Islamic Federations of Spain was created, as the product of the junction of five of the aforementioned federations. The Platform seeks to end the dominion that FEERI and UCIDE exert over the CIE. In order to pursue that aim, the Platform has proposed changing the CIE statutes, in order to allow new actors to join. That factor has made the operation of the CIE increasingly difficult, even more since FEERI is immersed in an internal crisis since 2000. The five federations that comprise the Platform are the Islamic Federation of Murcia, Spanish Islamic Federation of Catalonia, the Higher Islamic Council of the Autonomous Region of Valencia, The Muslim Federation of Spain, and the Islamic Federation of the Autonomous Region of the Balearic Islands.

As FEERI and UCIDE couldn’t achieve an agreement to allow other Islamic
communities to join the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), in April 2011
representatives of 870 Muslim associations decided to create the Islamic
Council of Spain, which included those communities with no
representation in the CIE. The new Islamic Council included nearly 93%
of the 916 Islamic religious entities registered at the Ministry of Justice.

The new Islamic Council included a managing board formed by the
President of the UCIDE, Riay Tatary; 3 members of the Muslim Federation
of Spain (FEME); the Vice-President of Murcia’s Islamic federation,
Munir Benjelloun; and the head of Valencia’s Islamic Cultural Centre,
Amparo Sánchez. ((See

Apart from the traditional rivalry between FEERI and UCIDE another factor of instability has appeared: the growing influence of al Ahd wal Ihssan [Justice and Spirituality, the Moroccan Islamist movement] among Moroccan communities in Spain. In the past few years, Justice and Spirituality has gained enough strength to challenge current Moroccan control over FEERI. Morocco, meanwhile, has tried to influence the Spanish Government presenting itself as the sole guardian of moderate Islam, and Justice and Spirituality as a radical group and a threat to Spain. It has also tried to extend its control over imams in Spain, and has tried to convince the Spanish Government that a Moroccan-controlled body of imams would be a guaranty of moderation. In this line Morocco convened a meeting of imams working in Spain. It took place in Marrakech in November 2008. (( See CEMBRERO, IGNACIO (2008): “Marruecos convoca a más de cien imanes afincados en España”, El País, 7 November; PAGOLA, JON (2009): “Fieles a Mohamed VI e islamistas pugnan por el control de los musulmanes en España”, ABC, 1 November.))

Islamic Education
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The Agreement of Cooperation between the Spanish State and the Islamic Commission of Spain states (as do the agreements with Jews and Evangelicals) that, as the Education Law includes the right of having access to religious education in public and private-concerted schools, (( Private-concerted schools are private schools that receive public funding.)) Islamic religion must be taught where parents ask for it (article 10).

The Agreement also states that Islamic religion will be taught by teachers appointed by communities belonging to the Islamic Commission. The subject contents as well as textbooks will be also chosen by the communities belonging to the Islamic Commission.

It is also stated that the Islamic Commission could create its own schools, as well as universities and Islamic training centres.

However, the Agreement has not been implemented to any significant degree. Islam is taught in few schools. For example, in Catalonia and Madrid, where the majority of Muslim population lives, there is not a single teacher of Islam. ((See AYLLÓN, DANIEL (2009): “El islam tiene 46 maestros para 150.000 alumnos”, Público.es, 6 September.))

As we can see in the following table, the teaching of Islamic religion lessons in Spanish schools is practically non-existent.

[table id=38 /]

Source: Ministry of Education and Different Autonomous Regions with competence on education matters. I wish to thank the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation for providing me with this table.

The Ministry of Justice, through the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation, has tried to facilitate the development of this right by stimulating the publication of two Islamic religion textbooks for primary: Descubrir el islam 1 & 2. Both books have been written under the supervision of the Islamic Commission.

Security and Anti-Terrorism Issues
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Despite the terrible attacks of 11 March 2004 (11-M), Spain has not introduced new anti-terrorist legislation. However, a great many terrorist suspects have been arrested and imprisoned.
The most important trial of jihadists targetted those involved in the 11-M attacks.

The trial of the 28 defendants lasted 4 months. ((“El juicio por los atentados del 11 de marzo en Madrid queda visto para sentencia”, Europa press, http://www.europapress.es/00309/20070702225224/11-juicio-atentados-11-marzo-madrid-queda-visto-sentencia.html. )) The judge finally convicted 3 of the 8 chief defendants to prison terms of 35,000 to 40,000 years. The rest received far lower penalties. (((2007): “España: fallo judicial por el 11-M”, BBCMundo.com, 31 October; Romero, MANUEL & YOLDI, JOSÉ (2007): “El tribunal culpa a una célula islamista del 11-M, descarta a ETA y desmonta los bulos amparados por el PP”, El País, 31 October.))
There has also been a trial against an al-Qaeda terrorist cell linked to the 9/11 attacks. In this trial the defendant “Abu Dahdah” was sentenced to 27 years in prison. (((2005): “La Audiencia Nacional condena a 27 años de cárcel a «Abu Dahdah» por dirigir la célula española de Al Qaeda”, ABC, 26 September.))

Other trials have been held against terrorist cells or supposed terrorist cells. In 2007 the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) sentenced 5 members of the so-called “Dixan commando” to 13 years’ imprisonment. (((2007): “La Audiencia Nacional condena a 13 años de cárcel a cinco miembros del ‘comando Dixan’”, El País, 9 February.)) Recently, 10 Pakistanis and one Indian received prison sentences of up to 14 years after being found guilty of planning to bomb the Barcelona underground. (((2009): “Condenados a penas de hasta 14 años los 11 islamistas que planearon volar el metro de Barcelona”, El País, 14 December.))

According to one estimate, nearly 50% of those accused of being members of jihadist cells in Spain have been found not guilty. 89 people have been tried since 2005 by the Spanish National Court, of whom 42 were acquitted. Similarly, the final sentences meted out have always been less severe than the penalties called for by the prosecutor. (((2009): “Absueltos casi el 50% de los acusados por terrorismo islamista desde 2005 en España”, LaVanguardia.es, 11 April.))

As we saw earlier, concern over terrorism and security has also guided the implementation of measures to improve relations between the State and Muslim communities. This policy has paved the way for a more fluid dialogue between State representatives and those of the Muslim communities. It also led to the implementation of the Cooperation Agreements.

Islamic Practice
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In May 2004 there were 235 Muslim Religious Entities ((In Spanish law a “religious entity” is a religious organization with legal personality recognised by the Ministry of Justice. That designation includes religious communities, associations and federations. Therefore, it should not be confused with the number of mosques. All mosques in the Ministry’s Register are religious entities, but not all religious entities are mosques.)) registered at the Ministry of Justice’s Registry of Religious Entities. ((http://dgraj.mju.es/EntidadesReligiosas/.)) At the end of 2008 there were 641. This does not mean that they were all were created in those four years. Many were, but many others had been created before. The new policy of cooperation between the State and the Muslim communities through the Pluralism and Coexistence Foundation has generated greater interest in registering at the Ministry’s Registry.

According to the Agreements of Cooperation between the Spanish State and the Islamic Commission of Spain, ((Acuerdo de cooperación del Estado Español con la Comisión Islámica de España (aprobado por la Ley 26/1992 de 10 de noviembre, BOE de 12 de noviembre).)) mosques are inviolable spaces (article 2.2) and they cannot be forcibly expropriated without the Islamic Commission being heard. In addition, they cannot be demolished without their holy character being previously removed, and their archives and documents are protected by law.

Mosques in Spain are predominantly small spaces. They are usually located in garages or warehouses on the outskirts of the towns because communities do not easily find better places or because local authorities or/and neighbours are opposed to mosques being opened in town centres.

There are very few big newly built mosques in Spain, only four: two in Madrid (Abu Bakr Mosque and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Madrid), one in Valencia (Islamic Cultural Centre of Valencia) and another one in Granada.

There are projects for building new big mosques in Seville and Barcelona, but they are still at the work-in-progress stage. The Seville project has met with serious opposition from neighbours. ((RINCÓN, REYES (2008): “La mezquita de Sevilla se queda otra vez sin suelo por un error municipal”, El País, 17 October.)) Opposition to the construction and opening of mosques is common in Spain. There have been important cases, especially in Catalonia. ((See MORERAS, JORDI (2008): “¿Conflictos por el reconocimiento? Las polémicas en torno a los oratorios musulmanes en Cataluña”, en PLANET CONTRERAS, ANA I. y MORERAS, JORDI (eds.): Islam e inmigración, Madrid, Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, pp. 53-79.))

Recently (15 July 2009) the Catalonian Parliament approved a law regulating places of worship in an attempt to solve the problems that religious minorities (not just Muslims) face when they try to open a new place of worship. ((See http://www20.gencat.cat/portal/site/Departament-de-la-Vicepresidencia/menuitem.231745376b0b41e13a81e810b0c0e1a0/?vgnextoid=8360d49a17e72210VgnVCM1000008d0c1e0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=8360d49a17e72210VgnVCM1000008d0c1e0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default.))



There are 24 Islamic burial sites in Spain. The majority (14) are special spaces within public cemeteries. There is also an important proportion of Civil War Islamic cemeteries, created during the Spanish Civil War to bury the Moroccan soldiers that fought on Franco’s side. Of those Civil War cemeteries, some are not in use anymore, but others are still being used by the Muslim communities in Spain. The cemetery in Griñón (near Madrid) is one of those.

There are also two private Islamic cemeteries, property of two Muslim communities and used just by them.


*The Civil War Islamic cemetery in Griñón (Madrid) Source: http://www.iesoa.pangea.org/IMG/jpg/clip_image001.jpg.

The Agreement of Cooperation states that Islamic cemeteries will enjoy the same legal rights as mosques. Muslim communities are entitled to a special place in public cemeteries, as well as to having their own cemeteries. They also have the right to be buried according to Islamic burial rites (article 2.5).


Halal Slaughter

According to the Agreement of Cooperation the Islamic Commission of Spain has the right to have food slaughtered according to the Islamic rite and labelled as “halal”, but Islamic slaughter must respect the public health laws. It is also stated that public institutions such as hospitals, schools and the army must do their best to provide Muslims with halal food when required (article 14).

Apart from what the Agreement states and before it was signed, the Islamic Junta, an Islamic organization joined mainly by converts, created the Halal Institute in 1986 to provide Muslims with food labelled as halal.


The Agreement of Cooperation states (article 12) that the members of communities belonging to the Islamic Commission have the right to ask to stop work on Fridays in order to attend the mosque (between 13:00 and 18:30). They also have the right to finish work an hour before sunset during the month of Ramadan. However they will have to recover the lost hours.

If an agreement is reached between employees and employer, Muslims could replace the common holidays among the non-Muslim population with the following Islamic holidays: Al-Hiyra (1st. Muharram), Ashura (10th Muharram), Idu al-Maulid (12th Rabiu al-Awwal), Al-Isra wa al-Mi’ray (27th Rayab), Idu al-Fitr (1st, 2nd, 3rd Shawwal), Idu al-Adha (10th, 11th, 12th Du Al Hyyah)

The same holds true for students in public schools.

Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish Autonomous Cities in North Africa, were the first Spanish cities to officially recognise an Islamic celebration: the Eid al-Kabir. ((See (2008): “El Aid El Kebir de 2010 también será día festivo en Ceuta”, Sur.es; Cembrero, Ignacio: “La fiesta del Cordero será oficial”, El País, 30 November.))

As an important Shi’i community lives in Barcelona, the City Council has also allowed the celebration of Ashura with a procession through some streets. ((See (2009): “Los chiíes de Barcelona celebran la Ashura con permiso del Ayuntamiento”, ABC, 9 January.))


Islamic marriage is recognised by the State as legal if the bride and groom fulfil the legal requisites established by Spanish law (Agreement, article 7).

There are no statistics about Islamic marriages taking place in Spain, but we can make an approximation to the issue by showing the statistics of marriages that have taken place between Spanish and nationals from countries identified with Islam, and between nationals from countries identified with Islam.

[table id=33 /]

Source: National Statistics Institute (INE: http://www.ine.es). Compiled by Fernando Bravo.

As we can see, there are more marriages between Spanish and Moroccans than marriages between Moroccans. This is an indication that marriages of Moroccan residents in Spain probably and preferably take place in Morocco, not in Spain. The same probably holds true for Senegalese, Algerians and Pakistanis.


Unlike France, there is no legal ban on the wearing of the hijab in Spain. Controversies have nonetheless been aired in the media when certain schools tried to prevent Muslim girls wearing the headscarf. These few cases have been few and far between. ((On the issue of the hijab in Spain see MIJARES, LAURA y RAMÍREZ, ÁNGELES (2008): “Mujeres, pañuelo e islamofobia en España: un estado de la cuestión”, Anales de Historia Contemporánea, nº 24, pp. 121-135.))

In all events, the media discourse in Spain concerning the hijab has been highly influenced by the polemics in France, more than by actual problems in Spain.

Recently controversy was sparked in the media concerning the case of a judge who refused to allow a Muslim witness to wear the niqab and a lawyer to wear the hijab. The case of the lawyer has been especially controversial since she has appealed to the Spanish High Court of Justice in order to have the right to wear it during the proceedings. ((CEBERIO, MÓNICA (2010): “El supremo decidirá sobre el uso del ‘hiyab’ en los juicios”, El País, 15 January.))

Media Coverage, Intellectual and Political Discourse
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There is no exhaustive study of Spanish media coverage of Islam and Muslims, although there are partial studies enabling us to make an estimation of this coverage in recent years.

If we use the following graph as a sample of this coverage, we could conclude that interest in Islam and Muslims is relatively recent.

El País and ABC are two of Spain’s leading newspapers. Both are addressed to a wide range of readers, albeit on different sides of the ideological spectrum: liberal in the case of El Pais, conservative in the case of ABC. Different as they are ideologically, they show a very similar tendency in the grade of attention they have paid to Islam.

Appearance frequency of the word “Islam” in two of the main Spanish newspapers

As we can see, they have always paid attention to Islam mainly during International crisis as the Iranian Revolution, the war in Former Yugoslavia, the Algerian Civil War, and above all after 9/11. We can easily identify each crisis by the peaks in the graph. So we can draw the following conclusions: Islam is mainly associated with violence, wars and international conflicts.

We cannot discern how many news items deal with the issue of immigration or Muslims in Spain because concern over this issues only became really apparent after 9/11. In the graph they are easily confused with news about, for example, terrorism, war in Iraq, etc.

Before 9/11 the media paid little attention to Islam. El País, as we can see, paid a little more attention to it during the Civil War in Yugoslavia and Algeria, but nothing compared to what happened after 9/11. Before that, the issue “Muslims in Spain” was dealt with in the context of a broader concern with the issue “Immigration”. Islam still was not a main issue. The main concern was irregular immigration and the integration of immigrants. And when media, politicians and intellectuals spoke about the integration of Muslim immigrants, they almost invariably spoke broadly about their “culture of origin”, not specifically about Islam. The objects of concern were Maghrebis, not Muslims. Few people thought of Maghrebis as Muslims, but as “moros” or Moors (an ethnic rather than religious category). During those years negative discourse about the presence of Maghrebi immigrants in Spain was part of a broader backlash against multiculturalism. ((See ZAPATA-BARRERO, RICARD; GONZÁLEZ, ELISABET and SÁNCHEZ MONTIJANO, ELENA (2008): El discurso político en torno a la inmigración en España y en la Unión Europea, Madrid, Ministerio de Trabajo e Inmigración y Observatorio Permanente de la Inmigración; BRAVO LÓPEZ, FERNANDO (2002): Los partidos políticos parlamentarios españoles ante la inmigración (1999-2002), DEA Tesis, Department of Arab and Islamic Studies, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; ABELLA, CARLOS MANUEL (2005): Los discursos mediáticos acerca de la inmigración y el multiculturalismo en España: análisis de los editoriales de ABC, El Mundo y El País, 1994-2002, PhD Tesis, Department of Theory and Method of Social Analysis, Universidad de la Coruña, La Coruña.))

However this attitude against multiculturalism very soon led to a negative attitude against Islam and Muslims, even more after 9/11. But it was especially after the publication of La sociedad multiétnica [The Multiethnic Society] in early 2001 by Italian political scientist Giovanni Sartori, when a national debate on multiculturalism and the integration of Muslims in Spain began. Sartori argued against multiculturalism and identified it as a threat to democracy. He also considered that European States should discriminate against immigrants on the basis of their “culture of origin” and give preference to the arrival of those immigrants with a culture similar to that of the host country. According to Sartori, the entrance of Muslim immigrants should be avoided because it was so difficult to integrate them. ((SARTORI, GIOVANNI (2001): La sociedad multiétnica. Pluralismo, multiculturalismo y extranjeros, Madrid, Taurus.))

The book was broadly discussed in newspapers and heavily influenced politicians, especially –but not only- in the Popular Party, then in power. For example, Enrique Fernández Miranda, who in those days was Secretary of State on Immigration, publicly manifested that he agreed with Sartori on the issue of multiculturalism. ((BRAVO LÓPEZ: Los partidos políticos parlamentarios, pp. 69-71)) It also inspired Federico Trillo, Ministry of Defence in 2002, when he argued in favour of the inclusion of South American immigrants in the Army, “because they are of our culture”, and against the inclusion of immigrants of other “cultures” (although Muslim soldiers are already part of the Spanish army). ((Ibid., pp. 72-73.))

As we said before, after 9/11 the national debate on immigration, integration and multiculturalism, swiftly came to focus on Islam and Muslims. The debate oscillated between those who equated Islam with terrorism and was therefore a threat to the “west”, and those who tried to avoid such identifications.

The situation worsened after the attacks of 11 March 2004 in Madrid. Despite the pain, people remained calm and there were few racist or Islamophobic attacks. However, in the media the situation was different. It was not long before op-ed pieces of an Islamophobic character began to appear. In the following months, there was an ongoing debate on the nature of Islam, its supposed violent and intolerant character, and the need for the State to control mosques and what imams said there. ((See some examples of Islamophobic op-ed pieces in the Spanish media in NAVARRO, LAURA (2008): Contra el islam. La visión deformada del mundo árabe en Occidente, Córdoba, Almuzara; BRAVO LÓPEZ, FERNANDO (2009): Islamofobia y antisemitismo: la construcción discursiva de las amenazas islámica y judía, PhD Tesis, Department of Arab and Islamic Studies, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid. See also BRAVO LÓPEZ, FERNANDO (2009): “Islamofobia y antimusulmanismo en España: el caso de César Vidal”, Revista de Estudios Internacionales Mediterráneos, nº 8, pp. 47-71.))


*D7 ABC cover, 2 December 2007. Source: http://hemeroteca.abc.es/nav/Navigate.exe/hemeroteca/madrid/d7/2007/12/02/001.html.

In the past two years the situation in the media seems to have calmed down. As seen in the previous graph, the attention paid to Islam by two of Spain’s leading newspapers has returned to pre-9/11 levels. However, given the current economic crisis, immigration has again become a major concern, in the media as well as among politicians.

For example, the municipal authorities in a small city in the province of Barcelona, Vic, recently decided to prevent the registration of irregular immigrants in the Municipal Register. After some controversy, the city hall backtracked and decided to obey the laws in force. The controversy has been used by the Popular Party to call for a reformation in the legislation on immigration and a “integration contract” for immigrants. ((See (2010): “Los alcaldes del PP exigen una reforma de la Ley de Extranjería”, El País, 25 January; (2010): “El PP retoma la creación de un «contrato de integración» para inmigrantes”, ABC, 23 January.)) This “integration contract” was proposed by the Popular Party in its 2008 electoral campaign (sparking a great deal of controversy). It was argued that the contract was necessary to make immigrants obey laws, learn the language and respect Spanish customs. ((See (2008): “Rajoy promete a los inmigrantes un «contrato de integración» si gana las elecciones”, ABC, 6 February.))

Public Perception of Islam, Bias and Discrimination
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In September 2007 the Spanish Centre of Sociological Research (CIS) published the results of a national survey on Attitudes toward discrimination based on a racial and ethnic origin. (( See (2007): “Actitudes ante la discriminación por origen racial y étnico”, 19 September, http://www.cis.es/cis/opencms/-Archivos/Marginales/2720_2739/2731/e273100.html. Similar data can be found in (2009): “Actitudes hacia la inmigración (II)”, 20 September, http://www.cis.es/cis/opencms/-Archivos/Marginales/2760_2779/2773/e277300.html, and also in DESRUES, THIERRY and PÉREZ YRUELA, MANUEL (eds.) (2007): Opinión de los españoles en materia de racismo y xenofobia. 2007, Madrid, Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales.)) Those polled were asked whether they thought there were ethnic, religious or cultural groups that “did not mix with the rest of society”, and which groups sprang to mind. 15.7% of those polled said “Moroccans, Maghrebis, Algerians”, 18.2% “Muslims, Mohammedans”, 11.1% “Arabs” and 7.9% “moros” or Moors. If we put together all these different identifications under the label “Muslims”, then the result is that 52.9% of those polled thought that Muslims did not “mix with the rest of society”, a far cry from the 18.3% that said “Romanians”, and the 17.2% that said “gypsies”.

The situation has not changed much in the last decade. Already at the beginning of 2001 the CIS “barometer” showed similar data: For those polled, Maghrebis (there were no questions about “Muslims”) were the less likeable community among immigrants. ((See http://www.cis.es/cis/opencms/-Archivos/Marginales/2400_2419/e240900.html.))

Again, in 2007 the Real Instituto Elcano (a think-tank that declares itself to be independent but that has strong links with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs) published a survey in which the results showed that 96% of those polled thought that Muslims were sexist, 90% thought that that they were authoritarian, 68% that they were violent, and 37% of them had a “negative opinion of Muslim religion”. (( NOYA, JAVIER (2007): “Los españoles y el islam”, Real Instituto Elcano. ARI, nº 47, pp. 13-17.))

This has probably triggered incidences of discrimination against the Muslim population, but we have no data in this respect. As the Constitution states, no-one in Spain can be obliged to declare his religious beliefs, and statistics for discrimination complaints do not collect religious affiliation of the victims, nor their national or ethnic origin. In addition, it is difficult to determine whether an act of discrimination or an aggression has been motivated by the victim’s religious, ethnic or national identity. An explicit confession of the perpetrator is needed in order to elucidate this point.

We can also reach a conclusion about the perpetrator’s motivation if his action has a symbolic component. In that sense, currents of opposition to the opening of mosques, to which we alluded earlier, might well have an Islamophobic component. But, even in those cases, we cannot always conclude that this is necessarily the case, because we also find similar situations when Evangelical churches or Jehovah’s Witnesses’ temples are going to be opened. We can also identify symbolic actions of an anti-Islamic character when we find, for example, swastikas painted on the walls of an Islamic cemetery or a mosque.


*A crossed-out Swastika on the walls of the Islamic cemetery at Griñón (Madrid). December 2009. Photo by Fernando Bravo.

But we can also identify Islamophobic actions perpetrated against institutions and people that have no relation with Islam. For example, in May 2008 the Spanish National Front (an extreme-right party) organized a demonstration in front of Casa Árabe [Arabic House, a cultural institution dependent on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs], because they identified it as an Islamic cultural centre. ((See FIGUERAS, AMANDA (2008): “El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de Madrid autoriza una manifestación contra Casa Árabe”, ElMundo.es, 14 May.))


*National Front poster on the demonstration at Casa Árabe with the Mayor of Madrid, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon, wearing a fez and saying: “An Islamic Cultural Centre is exactly what this neighbourhood needs and that’s that!” Source: http://estaticos03.cache.el-mundo.net/elmundo/imagenes/2008/05/13/1210696499_extras_ladillos_1_0.jpg.

In all events, as shown in a recent study by the Institute of Advanced Social Studies (IESA-CSIC), ((The study is still unpublished. It was based on discussion groups.)) there is a lot of ignorance about Islam in Spain. Most people know nothing about Islam, and they cannot even elaborate a negative discourse about it. Negative attitudes toward Muslims used to be based on the traditional aversion towards “moros”, based on traditional racist stereotypes: “the Moor is dirty”, “the Moor is a liar”, “the Moor is a thief”, “the Moor is lazy”, etc.

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One member of Tabligh obtain the citizenship in spite of the opposition from CNI

The Spanish High Court has granted citizenship by residence to a Muslim who belongs to the Tabligh movement. In 2006 the Spanish Government had refused his petition of citizenship as a result of a negative report from the CNI (Spanish Center of Intelligence).

This governmental agency defines the Tabligh Islamic movement as intransigent with the freedom and against to the equality. The CNI considered his relations between this individual and the Tabligh organization as proof of his lack of integration in to the Spanish society.

Islam in Barcelona, Spain

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
Ciutat Vella 111,891 3,830 1,633 534 94 235 62,313 111,891
Eixample 891 1,181 111 207 38 81 219,555 268,189
Sants-Montjuïc 2,590 2,521 184 203 71 47 146,080 182,692
Les Corts 299 183 13 63 24 11 72,572 83,060
Sarrià-Sant Gervasi 249 289 19 50 17 13 125,975 143,583
Gràcia 410 586 18 110 14 42 103,273 123,304
Horta-Guinardó 586 1,011 17 134 54 49 147,781 170,906
Nou Barris 1,478 1,577 25 94 559 71 140,155 169,461
Sant Andreu 1,419 1,398 32 127 88 54 126,163 146,524
Sant Martí 2,810 1,931 45 181 52 238 192,844 228,480
17,089 14,507 2,097 1,703 841 1,336,711 1,628,090

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.

Religious Life

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.

Civic Life

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[26]):

  1. Almahabba Wattaouasol
  2. Anjamane Eshat Udin O Falah Ul Muslemin
  3. Annour
  4. Associació Social Cultural Independent Forjadores de la Vida (Sant Martí)
  5. Centre Islàmic Al Qaim (Ciutat Vella)
  6. Centre Islàmic Camí de la Pau (Ciutat Vella)
  7. Centre Islàmic Camí de la Pau – Oratori – Arc del Teatre (Ciutat Vella)
  8. Centre Islàmic de Barcelona (Sant Andreu)
  9. Centre Sufí – Derga Naqshbandi (Gràcia)
  10. Centro Islámico Al Qaim
  11. Centro Islámico Camino de la Paz
  12. Centro Islámico Catalán
  13. Centro Islámico del Carmelo
  14. Centro Islámico Mezquita Shahajalaljame
  15. Comunidad Islámica Amigos de la Mezquita de la Paz
  16. Comunidad Islámica Anjuman Islah Ul Muslemin De Barcelona
  17. Comunidad Islámica de la Bordeta – Mezquita Rahma (Misericordia)
  18. Comunidad Musulmana Al-Iman
  19. Comunidad Al Kauzar
  20. Comunitat al Kauzar
  21. Consell Islàmic Cultural de Catalunya (Ciutat Vella)
  22. Comunidad Al Kauzar
  23. Consell Islàmic Cultural de Catalunya
  24. Consejo Islámico de Cataluña
  25. Federació Islàmica de Catalunya (Ciutat Vella)
  26. Federación Islámica Catalana de España (FICDE)
  27. Hermandad Islámica Imam Ar-Rida (A.S.)
  28. Institut d’Estudis Sufís (Les Corts)
  29. Junta Islàmica Catalana
  30. Mesquita Abi Ayoub Elansari (Ciutat Vella)
  31. Mesquita Abu Bakr Sant (Martí)
  32. Mesquita Ali Ciutat (Vella)
  33. Mesquita Baba Jalal Shah (Ciutat Vella)
  34. Mesquita Fezane Madina (Sants-Montjuïc)
  35. Mesquita Jamea Masjad Ghulamane Mustapha Catalunya (Sant Martí)
  36. Mesquita la Paz (Sant Andreu)
  37. Mesquita Madni (Ciutat Vella)
  38. Mesquita Rahma (Sants-Montjuïc)
  39. Mesquita Tarek Ibn Ziad (Ciutat Vella)
  40. Mezquita Hamza (Sant Martí)
  41. 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.

Home country Total immigrant population percentage Immigrant pop. ages 1-17 yrs. percentage Registered immigrant students Percentage Unregistered immigrant students Percentage
TOTAL 280,817 100,000 35,882 100,000 26,478 100,000 9,404 26.2
Morocco 13,998 5.0 2,734 7.6 1.792 6.8 942 34.5
Pakistan 15,966 5.7 1,827 5.1 1,105 4.2 722 39.5
Bangladesh 1,976 0.7 443 1.2 203 0.8 240 54.2