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
The contemporary presence of Muslims in Barcelona started in the early 1960s. Barcelona and Catalonia were a first stop for the North-African migrant population on their way to Europe. The quantitative estimation is hard to establish, because of the high fluctuation and mobility of this migrant presence. Research on these movements, including data on hotel and guesthouse occupation, show that in 1965 a total of 7.702 Moroccans existed.
The settlement in Barcelona started in 1967, due to the strong European manpower crisis. In the 70´s the Magrebi population suffered irregular legal statuses. The first settlements of Muslims in Barcelona were in the quarters of Raval, Barceloneta and Santa María del Mar and in the industrial suburbs of Sta. Coloma de Gramanet, L´Hospitalet de Llobregat, Sabadell, Cornellá, Badalona, S. Vicenç dels Horts. It is important to remark that in these years a great number of Egyptians, Jordans, Syrians and Palestinians university students lived in Barcelona too. ((Moreras, J. 1999, Musulmanes en Barcelona: espacios y dinámicas comunitarias, CIDOB Edicions, Barcelona.))
Employment and Economic Activity
Since the economic crisis in 2007 began, the immigrant population has suffered high unemployment rates. Moroccans have suffered the highest unemployment rates because many worked in real estate, an industry that is experiencing great difficulty. ((Baquero, A. 2008, El paro se dispara en los barrios habitados principalmente por extranjeros en Barcelona.))
The statistics show that the immigrant Muslim population works basically as employees ((Recio, A.e.a. “Immigració i Mercat de Treball a Barcelona”, Consell Económic i Social de Barcelona-Ajuntament de Barcelona.))
The Muslim population is employed as construction workers (25.8 percent), as house workers (10.8 percent) and storekeepers.
The self-employment rates show high values between the Muslim immigrant populations working in Barcelona, if we compare them to the rates shown for other non European Union nationalities. If we look at the self-employment rates of the Pakistani (8.4 percent) and the Moroccan (4.8 percent) population we notice that they are in third and fifth position in the ranking of self-employment between the immigrant population, only surpassed by Chinese (26.7 percent) and Argentineans (9.5 percent) in first and second position in this ranking, and the Russians in fourth position with an percentage of 6.9 percent. Only the percentage of the Chinese people is similar to the medium average of the European Union (26.8 percent).
But the self-employment has a special interest in the description of the Muslim population in Barcelona, because self-employment is related with the opening of business-stores in the streets of Barcelona. One consequence of this is an increase of the visibility. Within the increase of the Muslim population and its visibility a new type of demands flourished and new types of business were established. This was the case of the opening of the first halal butcher’s shop opened in 1983. The number of halal butcher’s shops rose during the following three years to six. The halal butchers could offer halal products because the central market of Barcelona, Mercabarna, offered them the possibility to do the sacrifices following the Islamic specifications. ((Agencia Islámica de Noticias 2001, Barcelona: Mercabarna sacrifica más de 400 corderos para [la] celebración de fiestas musulmanas.)). Mercabarna could achieve the halal certificate from the Spanish Muslim association Junta Islámica in 2005. ((Agencia EFE 2005, Matadero Mercabarna obtiene la certificación del Instituto Halal.)). The extension of the Islamic business in Barcelona includes new business like travel agencies specialized in Pilgrimage to Mecca ((Moreras, J. 2005, “¿Ravalistán? Islam y configuración comunitaria entre los paquistaníes en Barcelona”, Revista CIDOB D´Afers Internacionals; Migraciones y relaciones internacionales entre España y Asia, vol. 68. ))and other different shops (textile, electrical appliance, communication and mobile telephony). In general we have to consider that Muslim immigrants have established a lot of different types of business, also in crisis time, they have used different strategies to compete with the local businesses: Long working days, offering credit to their customers, selling specific products (differentiation and diversification of the business). Some of these strategies are being criticized by a part of the autochthonous business owners. They lean especially on the legal restriction of the business opening hours, because these Islamic businesses are often more time open than the town council specification admits.
In Barcelona they are 35,882 of school age registered.
According to Barcelona’s town council data Moroccans are the largest group between 1 and 17 years with 2,734 individuals, followed by Pakistanis (1,827) and Bangladeshis (443). But education data indicates that these immigrant Muslim populations have a high population of uneducated people. The Bangladeshi population rate of uneducated people is also very high. The rate of unregistered Bangladeshi individuals of school age is 54.2 percent far away from the rates shown by the total immigrant population in school age (26.2 percent). The Moroccan (34.5 percent) and the Pakistani population (39.5 percent) are very high too, but no as high as the Bangladeshi rate.
Population and students per nationality in Barcelona 2008 ((Departament de Estadística Ajuntament de Barcelona, Extranjeros y enseñanza. Población y alumnos no universitarios por nacionalidades en Barcelona. 2008. Available: http://www.bcn.es/estadistica/castella/dades/inf/pobest/pobest09/part2/p0202.htm (2010, Feb/09).))
Pakistani population has mainly a primary education (89.3 percent) only 5.2 percent achieve the high school degree and 4.9 percent has a degree. Moroccans have mainly primary level too (79.5 percent), but on the other hand they achieve higher rates in high school (12.5 percent) and university (6.9 percent) than the Pakistani population.
This shows very different rates if we compare it to the total immigrant population living Barcelona. The rate of scholarship for the total population shows lower values for the primary education (47 percent), but the high school (23 percent) and the university (29 percent) rates are higher. ((Recio, A.e.a. “Immigració i Mercat de Treball a Barcelona”, Consell Económic i Social de Barcelona-Ajuntament de Barcelona.)) This data shows a lower qualification of the Muslims population in comparison with the immigrant population average in Barcelona.
It is interesting to examine the evolution of Islamic Education in Spain. It was recognized within the Agreement between the Spanish State and the Islamic Community of Spain. After this recognition the process of implementing this politics wasn´t roll-out, because religion was not a priority in the political arena. Only after the bombings in the commuter train system in Madrid in 2004 was the implementation of the Agreement was reinforced. We have to consider also that another process–the decentralization of the Spanish State, was taking place at the same time and some competences of the Spanish State were being transferred to the Comunidades Autónomas (Autonomous Regions) during the implementation of this agreement. The politics related to education were one of the subjects that were being transferred to the Comunidad Autónoma of Catalonia. This affected directly to the running of the Islamic education in Catalonia and in Barcelona too.
Just before the 2009-2010 academic year Spanish news reported that no teachers were hired to teach Islamic religion in Catalonia. ((Ayllón, D. 2009, El Islam tiene 46 maestros para 150.000 alumnos.)) This is the situation in the Comunidad of Madrid too, but not in the Comunidades Autónomas where these subjects haven’t been transferred yet and where the Spanish State is leading these competences.
In Barcelona, there is an open debate about the construction of a great mosque since 1988, when the first the Asociación Gran Mezquita de Barcelona (“Great Mosque Association of Barcelona”) was created. But the first steps for the building of a great mosque were taken a decade later. In 1999 a Syrian settled in Barcelona, Mowafak Kanfach, made the proposal to the town council of building a mosque with the direct investment of the Saudi Arabian Prince, Abdallah Ben Abdel Aziz. But the first’s problems arose with the opposition of the town councilors and the increasing internal division of the Muslim community in Barcelona.
It’s very surprising that only prayer rooms and little mosques have been created where the main Muslim population of Spain lives. This is because part of the Islamic community in Barcelona wants the construction of a great mosque and another part of the Muslims in Barcelona prefer the creation of well-equipped prayer rooms and the improvement of the existing ones. ((Segler, A. 2007, Barcelona: ¿Es necesaria una gran mezquita?¿O es mejor “una mezquita digna” en cada barrio?)) Both positions, those who supports the creation of a great mosque and those who support a more decentralized system of little prayer rooms, instead of a great mosque, are focused on the achievement of improve quality of the religious and social life of the Muslims in Barcelona and in Catalonia. But at the moment one main characteristic of the Islamic cult spaces in Barcelona is the precariousness of the resources. Most of them depend on the resources available in the community, on financial support from individual actors, on contributions of international Islamic organizations and on charity collection. Most of the worship places are located in old warehouses and garages, premises and flats. The characteristics described reflect the conditions of these spaces: too small (especially during Ramadan), lacking basic security accesses, ventilation and not fulfilling the legal requirement particularly at the beginning of these projects. Many of these prayer rooms are also multifunctional spaces. They aren’t used only as prayer rooms; they’re used also for other cultural and social activities, without having a specific area for each thing mixing sacred spaces with other non sacred.
Currently the town council spokesperson argues that the building of a great mosque in Barcelona can’t be considered, because in Barcelona does not exist a unique Muslim community and because the possibility to find a unique Muslim voice to find agreement about this issue is at the moment not possible ((Europa Press 2008, Barcelona no tendrá por ahora una mezquita como la de la M30 de Madrid.)).
There are also political parties against the construction of a great mosque in Barcelona. This is the position shown by the conservative right wing party (Partido Popular) ((Partido Popular is the third party most voted in the last town council elections (15.6 percent of the total votes achieved) after the Partido Socialista de Catalunya and Convergencia I Unió and the second party at state level.)) . The answer to this question of Alberto Fernández Díaz, the mayor candidate of Partido Popular in the last town council elections, was:
“No to a great mosque in Barcelona… I fear of who pays the constructions of mosques…” ((Redacción Webislam 2008, Candidato del PP a la Alcaldia: “No a una gran mezquita en Barcelona”.))
Meanwhile other places of worship (little mosques and prayer rooms) have been opened in Barcelona. In 1983 there were four worship places registered officially in Barcelona, the number increased in 2008 to fourteen ((Europa Press 2008, Unos 3.000 catalanes se han convertido a la religión musulmana en los últimos años.)) and in 2010 to sixteen ((Oficina D´Afers Religiosos Ajuntament de Barcelona , Religious organizations and places of worship. Available: http://w3.bcn.es/XMLServeis/Asia/XMLCercadorAsiaCtl/0,4134,259064949_760259385_3,00.html?tema=0040102016006_Islam&entitat=&radiob_lloc=1&districte=0&nom_carrer=&numero=&al=&submit-cerca=Search&cercadorAsia=true&districte=&llistaCanal=NO&accio=cercar_eq (2010, Jan/26))).
Other type of spaces had been adapted in order to meet with the needs of the Muslim community in Barcelona. This is the case of the cemeteries for Islamic burials. In 1997 the town council decided to reserve 552 square meters ((Argita, E.(Coord.). 2009, Musulmanes en España. Guía de Referencia, Casa Árabe.)) in the Collserola cemetery for this use and this was possible after the signature of an agreement between the city of Barcelona and four Arab-Muslim social and cultural entities. This was also problematic, because the major Spanish Islamic organizations (especially FEERI) claimed that this agreement had to be signed by them and the town council and not by the local Islamic association and the town council.
But a main characteristic of the Muslim population in Barcelona is the high diversity between them. This is shown not only by the demographical data mentioned before, that show the different origins of the Muslim population in Barcelona, this is also shown by the different forms of understanding Islam by the Muslims in Barcelona and it’s also shown in the different associations and mosque officially registered. This variety of Islamic approaches is related to the distinction between shiism and sunnism.
In Barcelona the Muslim population is mainly sunni, but they´re also two shii associations ((Estruch, J., Gömez i Segala, J., Griera, M.d.M. & Iglesias, A. 2006, Las otras religiones, Icaria Editorial.)) and they try to be very active in the public sphere. These associations celebrate the Ashura ((Solá, G. 2009, Los chiíes residentes en España también celebran la Ashura The Ashura is the one of the main festivity for the shii Muslims and it commemorate the martyrdom of the Imam Hussein.)) with a demonstration in the streets of Barcelona with some limitations. It is forbidden to realize flagellation ritual with bloodshed during the public demonstration.
We can find also Sufis turuq ((Turuq is the plural of tariqa and it can be translated to English as brotherhood, association or guild.)) (brotherhoods) in Barcelona. These turuq are followed mainly by autochthonous individuals and the immigrants are only a few. One of these Sufis center is the Instituto de Estudios Sufíes, founded in 1998, which follows the Maulawiyya tariqa. Another association established in Barcelona is the Centro Sufí de Barcelona founded in 2000 and is related to the Naqshbandiya tariqa.
There are different ways in which Muslims organize in Barcelona: By self-management of the Muslim collectives, by cultural actions of diplomatic representations, by supranational actions of the Muslim organizations, by influences of the Spanish Muslim associations and by individual actors. The creation of Islamic associations in Barcelona has been a long process. These associations were created informally without being legally registered at the beginning until these organizations find their stability. Many of these associations are registered as cultural associations and not as religious entities, because it’s easier to register them as cultural associations.
The first associative efforts took place in 1974 with the creation of the Asociación de Amistad con los Pueblos Árabes Bayt al-Thaqafa and the opening of a local office of the Centro Islámico de Madrid ((Moreras, J. 1999, Musulmanes en Barcelona: espacios y dinámicas comunitarias, CIDOB Edicions, Barcelona.)). This phenomenon grew afterwards with the creation of other associations: Amical de Trabajadores y Comerciantes Marroquíes en Barcelona (1979). (Amical is a very relevant association in Barcelona due to is work with Moroccan immigrants) and Casa y Centro Islámico de Pakistán (1981).
The following data show the associations and mosques inscribed officially in Barcelona (Official Islamic entities, religious organizations and worship places registered in Barcelona in the minority confessions register of the Justice Ministry of Spain ((Ministerio de Justicia, Registro de Confesiones Minoritarias. Available: http://dgraj.mju.es/EntidadesReligiosas/NCindex.htm (2010, Jan/21).)) and at the Office of Religious Affairs of the Barcelona town council):
- Almahabba Wattaouasol
- Anjamane Eshat Udin O Falah Ul Muslemin
- Associació Social Cultural Independent Forjadores de la Vida (Sant Martí)
- Centre Islàmic Al Qaim (Ciutat Vella)
- Centre Islàmic Camí de la Pau (Ciutat Vella)
- Centre Islàmic Camí de la Pau – Oratori – Arc del Teatre (Ciutat Vella)
- Centre Islàmic de Barcelona (Sant Andreu)
- Centre Sufí – Derga Naqshbandi (Gràcia)
- Centro Islámico Al Qaim
- Centro Islámico Camino de la Paz
- Centro Islámico Catalán
- Centro Islámico del Carmelo
- Centro Islámico Mezquita Shahajalaljame
- Comunidad Islámica Amigos de la Mezquita de la Paz
- Comunidad Islámica Anjuman Islah Ul Muslemin De Barcelona
- Comunidad Islámica de la Bordeta – Mezquita Rahma (Misericordia)
- Comunidad Musulmana Al-Iman
- Comunidad Al Kauzar
- Comunitat al Kauzar
- Consell Islàmic Cultural de Catalunya (Ciutat Vella)
- Comunidad Al Kauzar
- Consell Islàmic Cultural de Catalunya
- Consejo Islámico de Cataluña
- Federació Islàmica de Catalunya (Ciutat Vella)
- Federación Islámica Catalana de España (FICDE)
- Hermandad Islámica Imam Ar-Rida (A.S.)
- Institut d’Estudis Sufís (Les Corts)
- Junta Islàmica Catalana
- Mesquita Abi Ayoub Elansari (Ciutat Vella)
- Mesquita Abu Bakr Sant (Martí)
- Mesquita Ali Ciutat (Vella)
- Mesquita Baba Jalal Shah (Ciutat Vella)
- Mesquita Fezane Madina (Sants-Montjuïc)
- Mesquita Jamea Masjad Ghulamane Mustapha Catalunya (Sant Martí)
- Mesquita la Paz (Sant Andreu)
- Mesquita Madni (Ciutat Vella)
- Mesquita Rahma (Sants-Montjuïc)
- Mesquita Tarek Ibn Ziad (Ciutat Vella)
- Mezquita Hamza (Sant Martí)
- Yamaat Ahmadia Del Islam a Espanya
Public Perception and Community Life
The leading force for the increase of the Muslim visibility in Barcelona, as in other parts of the Spanish state, is related to the definitive settlement of the Muslim population in Spain and an increasing integration wish ((Argita, E. (Coord.). 2009, Musulmanes en España. Guía de Referencia, Casa Árabe.)). The increase of visibility can be associated to a bigger interest of the media in the presence of the Islamic community. The precariousness of the Islamic community affects also the way that this community is being seen by the non Muslim population. The lack of space and the localization of the Muslim prayer rooms has also increase its visibility, because several times the Friday prays and in the Holy Festivities many Muslims must perform their prays on the street. This has caused some tensions between the Muslim community and the authority.
Usually, Muslims are identified with Moroccans and the concept of “Moro”. This concept and other traditional stereotypes make that the Muslim community is seen with suspicion; this perception was reinforced after the terrorist attack against the World Trade Center in September 2001. Several efforts were made in order to promote the interreligious dialog, but these efforts crashed down after the terrorist attacks in the commuter train system in Madrid in 2004. ((Moreras, J. 2008, “Musulmans a Catalunya; Radiografia d´un islam implantat”, IEMed (Documents).))
Several new efforts have been done since then to increase the interreligious dialog. Some of these efforts are promoted by the town council and the UNESCO. One example of these efforts is the creation of the Office of Religious Affairs (OAR) by the City Council´s Department of Civil Rights and managed by UNESCOCAT (The UNESCO Center of Catalonia) ((Oficina D´Afers Religiosos Ajuntament de Barcelona, available at: http://w3.bcn.es/XMLServeis/XMLHomeLinkPl/ ; (Last view: 10.02.2010))). The Office of Religious Affairs is focused on improving the relationship between the different religions that meet together in Barcelona and to empower the coexistence by mediation in conflicts relate with religions, training on different beliefs and giving advise and information about religious issues. This center has promoted also a new legal regulation for the establishment of worship places and the official register of the already existing. This is not only for the Islamic prayer rooms, but also for other religions present in Barcelona. ((Oficina D´Afers Religiosos & Ajuntament de Barcelona 2007, Obertura i Regularització de Centres de Centres de Culte a la Ciutat de Barcelona.))
In general, we can describe the relationship between the immigrant Muslim population and the people of Barcelona as coexistence without high interaction in order to avoid conflicts. ((Torres Pérez, F. 2006, “Las dinámicas de la convivencia en un barrio multicultural. El caso de Russafa (Valencia)”, Papeles del CEIC.)) Many Muslims have chosen to reduce their visibility to avoid problems and conflicts. The clearest example of this effort in reducing their visibility is the absence of elements that inform about the location of many prayer rooms (prayer room signs, advertising hoarding etc.). But these efforts to maintain a climate of coexistence are broken occasionally by conflicts that sometimes have been promoted by autochthonous local associations and minority radical groups ((Moreras, J. 2004, “Conflictos en Cataluña” in Atlas de Inmigración Marroquí en España, eds. B. López García & M. Berriane, UAM-Observatorio Permanente de la Inmigración.))
That has been also used opportunistically by some politicians in their discourses affecting negatively how Muslims are perceived by the rest of people living in Barcelona. ((MARTÍNEZ, Montse (2007); El candidato del PP a la alcaldía de Barcelona reitera su oposición a una mezquita e invita a discriminar a los inmigrantes por su religión; elperiódico.com; available at: http://www.webislam.com/?idn=9427 ; Last view:(18.01.2010)))
All these aspects have their reflection in an increase of the presence of news related with the Muslims presence in the mass media. The images showed by some media aren’t often very friendly portraying the Muslims population of Barcelona and stereotypes are often used to support argument lines.
||Total immigrant population
||Immigrant pop. ages 1-17 yrs.
||Registered immigrant students
||Unregistered immigrant students