Newsnight report on Spanish far right

Espana2000 protest

Yesterday’s edition of Newsnight had a report by Paul Mason on how the economic crisis in Spain has assisted the growth of the far-right group España 2000.

He visited the town of Onda in eastern Spain where España 2000 organised an anti-mosque demonstration in November 2011 and the Islamic centre was the victim of an arson attack in September this year.

See also Paul Mason, “Amid scars of past conflict Spanish far right grows”, BBC News, 18 December 2012

España 2000 Onda protest

Arson attack on Spanish mosque

Onda mosque arson

El País reports that the Ibn Al-Abbar Islamic centre at Onda in eastern Spain has been the victim of an arson attack. The chairman of the centre’s committee, Milud Guettaf, said that it was only because the attack was on a part of the building where there are no carpets that the fire did not spread throughout the centre.

Guettaf added that worshippers had been subjected to racist abuse by an individual as they left the mosque the previous evening. He also referred to the role of the far-right group España 2000, which has a councillor in Onda, in whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment. In November last year España 2000 organised a demonstration in the town, protesting against the mosque and the “Islamist invasion”.

Spain: far right tries to exploit opposition to new mosque

PXL anti-mosque protestThe mosque in Torrejón de Ardoz doesn’t look much like a mosque. It occupies the ground floor of a drab block of flats near the main square in this town of 120,000 inhabitants just east of Madrid. But for the last decade and a half, it has been the only place of worship for Muslims here.

“This mosque is too small for us and we need a new site that is bigger and more apt for our needs,” says Farid Bahoudi, the spokesman for Torrejón’s Islamic community, pointing to the old building. He says there are now about 10,000 Muslims in the town, mostly from north Africa.

But local Muslims’ attempts to find a more suitable site for their mosque have sparked a dispute that has pitted politicians on the far right against activists from the radical left and highlighted the issue of race relations in crisis-ridden Spain.

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Amnesty International finds bias against European Muslims

Amnesty InternationalA new report from Amnesty International has found that some European Muslims are regularly denied employment and educational opportunities because of widespread cultural and religious stereotypes that lead to discrimination against them.

The report, titled “Choice and Prejudice: Discrimination Against Muslims in Europe“, examines the lives of Muslims in Switzerland, France, Belgium, Spain, and the Netherlands. It found that individuals who wear specific forms of dress, like a head scarf, or other symbols associated with Islam, do worse with jobs and schooling because of prejudicial attitudes and legal impunity in these European states.

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Spanish girl thrown out of exam for wearing headscarf

A Spanish schoolgirl has been expelled from school during an exam after refusing to remove her Islamic headdress or hijab, school officials said. “They told me to remove it… they humiliated me in front of my peers,” she told El Mundo newspaper.

The 14-year-old girl, who lives in Madrid, decided to wear hijab this summer. Her parents became outraged by the expulsion and described it an “abuse,” reporting the case to judiciary officials.

This comes while there are no clear guidelines prohibiting the wearing of headscarves in state schools in Spain. Muslims currently account for just over one million of Spain’s 46-million population. Muslims in Spain have been witnessing a growing trend of Islamophobia as e hostility towards the expressions of Islamic symbols and practices grows in the European state.

The discriminatory policies on the rise in Spain clearly breach the country’s Law of Religious Freedom, as well as the International Human Rights law.

Press TV, 8 October 2011

See also Bikya Masr, 5 October 2011

Moroccan Islamist leader threatens to sue Dutch newspapers over false terrorism accusations

Hassan BakirMoroccan Islamist Hassan Bakir has fled back from Spain to the Netherlands. After ten weeks of detention and house arrest, waiting for a Spanish decision about his extradition to Morocco, he thought it was time to go. Back in the Netherlands, he wants to clear his reputation. “I am falsely depicted here as a dangerous terrorist.”

Last Friday, the Spanish council of ministers authorized the judge to proceed with the extradition procedure of Hassan Bakir to Morocco. For Bakir it was the last drop. “I didn’t do anything wrong. All that time I have waited for them to find that out and release me. But the decision of the council of ministers really scared me so I decided to flee.” He left the address where he was under house arrest and travelled over land to the Netherlands in two days.

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Spain: another town bans the veil

A small town on the Spanish resort island of Mallorca has banned women from wearing burkas or face-covering Islamic veils in public places, even though only two women living there are known to do so.

Mayor Biel Serra of the town of Sa Pobla said last night’s vote was not about cultural or religious discrimination but rather an issue of public safety and having people show their faces so they can be identified. He told the AP today the ban also applies to other face-covering headgear like ski masks.

Sa Pobla joins a handful of other Spanish towns who have enacted some form of ban on body-covering burkas or face-covering niqabs. Biel said the two women in Sa Pobla wore the latter.

Associated Press, 6 September 2011

Catalan town council imposes 12-month ban on mosque building

No licences for new places of worship will be granted in Salt (Girona) for 12 months. The proposal from mayor Jaume Torramade scrapped plans for a new mosque approved by the previous council.

The motion was supported by the mayor’s own CiU nationalist party, together with the PP and the PxC anti-immigrant party. Former PxC councillor Joana Martinez, who left the group after censure of her African partner, also voted in favour. So, too, did Carles Bonet who resigned from the party following differences with the party and criticism of his male partner from the Dominican Republic.

The plenary council session was preceded by moments of tension when PxC leader Josep Anglada was confronted by a group of immigrants and Indignados from the 15-M movement.

Carrying banners proclaiming “Racists get out of Salt” and “Salt is anti-racist” they condemned PxC’s campaign to halt the new mosque. Anglada, who had hoped to attend the council session, was prevented by police from entering the chamber with the excuse that it was full.

Undeterred, Anglada remained by the door where he was heckled by protesters. As tempers flared and insults flew police then escorted the politician inside, although he still did not succeed in entering the public gallery.

The council’s veto on licences for new places of worship could become permanent if the regional government carries out its promise to modify previous regulations obliging local councils to reserve sites for churches, mosques and temples.

Not only would this affect Moslems in Salt, where 43 per cent of residents are immigrants, but also Evangelists belonging to the Holy Ghost Fellowship who had hoped to build a temple there.

Euro Weekly News, 6 September 2011

Catalan far-right anti-mosque protest banned

Plataforma per CatalunyaThe Catalonia region of northeast Spain has banned a rally called to protest plans to build a mosque in a small town, fearing violence. The demonstration in Salt had been called for Saturday by an openly anti-immigrant party called Platform for Catalonia.

The regional government’s interior department said Tuesday it feared clashes between demonstrators and young Muslims. It said police have warned that young Muslims in Salt are reaching out to Muslims in nearby towns to convene a counter-rally for the same day in Salt.

The rally against the mosque was to be held at the spot where Muslim organizations have applied for a permit to build it.

AFP, 24 August 2011

See also Europa Press, 24 August 2011