Radical Islam Spreading in Spain
by Soeren Kern
July 3, 2012
This report, which examines some of the main Islamist groups operating in Spain, shows that the common thread linking all the groups together is their mutual desire to establish an Islamic Caliphate.
Two Islamists have been arrested in Spain on charges of torturing and murdering two fellow Muslims for "abandoning radical Islam."
The arrests came just days after Spanish newspapers reported that jihadists in Spain are travelling to Syria to help overthrow the government there.
Spanish authorities say the incidents -- on top of many others in recent months -- point to the accelerating spread in the country of radical Salafi Islam, which Spain's National Intelligence Center, the CNI, in a leaked secret report -- corroborated by the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies, an organization tied to the Spanish Ministry of Defense, in its own recently published a 43-page report entitled, "Islamist Movements in Spain" -- states is increasingly posing the greatest threat to national security.
Rachid Mohamed Abdellah and Nabil Mohamed Chaib, both of whom are Spanish citizens of Moroccan origin, were jailed after being questioned by Judge Eloy Velasco at the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) in Madrid on June 28.
Police say the two men, aged 25 and 30 respectively, are members of an Islamist cell based in the city of Melilla, a Spanish exclave on the northern coast of Morocco. They are accused of torturing and murdering two other members of the cell who "adopted Western behavior and tried to disengage from radical Islam." Spanish authorities say the murders were meted out according to Islamic Sharia law, which calls for the killing of "infidels."
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said the suspects are "capable of carrying out especially brutal attacks," and share "the same radical orthodoxy" of the Islamists who carried out the March 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 people were killed and 1,800 wounded.
At a news conference following the arrests, the Director General of Spanish Police, Ignacio Cosidó, said: "They were part of an extremely radical group, and had committed a double murder of two members of their own organization who had shown signs of wanting to leave. Their ideology is clearly jihadi and they believe in terrorism as a means to achieve their objectives. Therefore, they posed a threat of the highest order."
Abdellah and Chaib were arrested Melilla neighborhood of Cañada de Hidum after an extended confrontation with police, who, pelted with rocks and bottles by local Muslims, were forced to call for reinforcements.
Spanish police further state that the cell was composed mainly of Spanish citizens of North African origin living in Melilla, and Moroccans living in Farkhana, Morocco. The suspects were engaged in recruiting and indoctrinating Muslim youths for training in jihadist camps or war zones in places such as Afghanistan. The cell was notable for its secrecy and for the adoption of strong internal security measures aimed at keeping its activities clandestine.
Members of the cell were forced to live a life of submission to the Takfiri branch of Islam, a violent offshoot of fundamentalist Saudi Salafism, that seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate [empire] in the Middle East and large parts of Europe. Among other beliefs, Takfiris consider violence to be a legitimate method to achieve their religious and political goals.
The arrests come just days after the Madrid-based newspaper El País reported that jihadists from Ceuta, another Spanish exclave in northern Morocco, have been travelling to Syria to help overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad. The report states that one of the jihadists, a 33-year-old taxi driver, Rachid Wahbi, was killed just days after arriving in Syria.
Spanish police say the jihadists, many of whom are Spanish citizens, have been travelling from Ceuta to Málaga and then on to Madrid, from where they board flights to Istanbul. Once in Turkey, they make contact with jihadists who facilitate their entry into Syria.
Police believe the jihadists from Ceuta involve Takfiris who, in the Los Caracolas district of the city, attend a mosque considered the most radical of the 33 mosques in Ceuta because of its links to Salafism. Spanish police say the jihadists also meet regularly in homes in the Condesa neighborhood of Ceuta, where they watch videos on jihad.
Separately, nine Islamists accused of planning terrorist attacks aimed at "liberating" Spain for Islam were found not guilty by the National Court in Madrid in April 2012.
Spanish public prosecutors had said the men -- Salafi-Jihadists who belonged to an Islamist cell known as the "Army of the Messiah" (Ansar al-Mahdi) -- sought to "free" the cities of Ceuta and Melilla from Spanish rule to begin the Islamic re-conquest of Spain.
Spanish prosecutors said the jihadist cell operated out of the Darkawia mosque in the El Príncipe Alfonso neighborhood of Ceuta. The ringleader of the group, a Moroccan imam named Mohammed Abdessalam, was alleged by prosecutors to have "preached the most extreme version of Islam."
Prosecutors said the jihadists had been plotting a series of bombings in Ceuta -- in the city's main port, in churches and in other infrastructure.
In its ruling, however, the court said that although prosecutors proved that the Islamists were "jihadists who worshiped martyrdom," there was a lack of incontrovertible proof that the men were "planning to attack Spanish interests." The ruling added: "Terrorism is more than the expression of radical ideas. Freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas, thoughts or doctrines is a feature of the democratic system which we must protect even for those who disagree and advocate changing it."
The ruling came on the heels of the CNI's leaked secret report, which warned of "alarming symptoms" of the presence in Spain of members and cells of the Islamist group Takfir wal-Hijra, which subscribes to the "most radical and violent version of Salafi-Jihadism."
Takfir wal-Hijra doctrine promotes "jihad without rules" by condoning non-Muslim practices, such as drinking alcohol and drug trafficking, as a cover for extremist activities. According to CNI, the group aspires to subjugate the entire planet under a "global caliphate ruled exclusively by Islamic Sharia law." Members of the group are now firmly established in Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga and Valencia, among other Spanish cities.
The CNI document further states that police have detected Takfir activities in four mosques in Barcelona and two mosques in Valencia. The mosques are "led by radical imams from Algeria and Morocco," and are centers for "proselytization and recruitment of new members using religious instruction as a decoy."
The report of the Spanish Ministry of Defense examines some of the main Islamist groups operating in Spain, such as Takfir wal-Hijra, Tablighi Jamaat, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Justice and Charity from Morocco, concludes that radical Islam is on the rise in Spain. It also shows that the common thread linking all the groups together is their mutual desire to establish an Islamic Caliphate.
The document also states: "The wide range of freedoms in countries like Spain, such as the freedom of expression and association, and the extensive judicial protections, paradoxically represent an advantage for Islamist movements to disseminate messages opposed to democracy or messages that promote radicalization…Jihadist groups can disseminate a range of principles contrary to our democratic and constitutional values, or contrary to the integration into the society of residence, in addition to implementing feelings of marginalization or victimization, that could serve as a breeding ground for jihadist recruitment."
A recent survey conducted by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior provides additional insights into the beliefs of Muslims in Spain. Entitled "Values, Attitudes and Opinions of Muslim Immigrants," the report shows that more than half the Muslims in Spain consider themselves to be "very religious." Only 12% say they are non-practicing.
More than 80% are opposed to banning the burka and only 39% say they are opposed to establishment of Islamic Sharia law courts in Spain. More than 60% of those surveyed say they obey instructions from the imams at their local mosques.
In March, Spanish authorities arrested a radical Islamic preacher for calling on Muslims to use physical and psychological violence to "discipline" errant wives who refuse to submit to Islamic Sharia law or obey their husbands.
Spanish public prosecutors say Abdeslam Laaroussi, a charismatic imam from Morocco who preaches at a large mosque in Terrassa, an industrial city 30 kilometers north of Barcelona, is guilty of "incitement to violence against women" for "providing concrete examples of the manner in which wives should be beaten, how to isolate them inside the family home and how to deny them sexual relations," the last of which would not appear to require extensive instruction.
Police say witnesses provided them with recordings of sermons Laaroussi preached in downtown Terrassa at the Badr Mosque,where more than 1,500 people attend prayers services each Friday, and where he instructed his listeners to "hit women with the use of a stick, the fist or the hand so that no bones are broken and no blood is drawn."
Laaroussi has refused to cooperate with police or provide evidence: he says he does not recognize the legitimacy of the Spanish state.
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.