Spain In The Shadow Of Bin Laden
(and the upcoming elections)
by Norman Berdichevsky (March 2008)
On the day that General Franco’s Nationalist forces entered
From the time of the expulsion of the last Moors, the term “Moros” has been used in
In spite of General Franco’s frequent use of the theme of rescuing
The last Moors resident in
A certain intellectual interest in Arab and Moslem affairs was stimulated in the last days of the monarchy due to Spain's renewed involvement in Morocco and came to be known under the label of “Africanismo Español”. It was further promoted by various Spanish governments, regardless of their ideological orientation and in spite of the fact that no Moslem community existed within the boundaries of
It may seem strange that a Moslem presence on Spanish territory received Franco's blessing and was promoted by him. This is all the more remarkable when, due to the Nationalist victory in the Civil War, the rights and privileges of the Catholic Church had been fully restored and there existed no legal framework for full and open public worship by any other religion in the country (not even Protestants).
This was undoubtedly due to the personal gratitude felt by Franco to his loyal Moslem troops, who played such an important role in his victory. He set aside a special area for fallen Moslem soldiers of the Civil war in the
It may also be said that a favorable attitude was manifested at the same time towards the Spanish speaking Moroccan Jews. Their Spanish (Sephardi) heritage was acknowledged as a valuable part of historic Spanish culture. However, General Franco had been angered by
The first law permitting open and unrestricted non-Catholic public worship and real religious liberty in modern
Growth of the Muslim Community
A national Moslem association was established in 1971 with its headquarters in
Several rival associations were established following an expanded law on religious freedom in 1980. These organizations had an agenda of mixed religious, national and political character and were concentrated in
A movement began of conversions of disaffected Spanish Catholics to Islam, a trend that provided a ready made community able to welcome any defections from the majority culture. More than a few Spaniards with previous grievances against the Catholic Church in personal matters, such as marriage and divorce identified with Islam.
It did not take long for the first incident to arise involving a challenge by Moslem society to the Spanish authorities. This occurred when members of a new Moslem association in Córdoba attempted to enter a building jointly used as a church and a mosque to pray, without asking permission. Similar incidents continued to disturb relations between local authorities and the Muslim minority. In 1981, a magnificent new mosque was constructed in the resort town of
Not until 1986, under the Socialist leader Felipe Gonzalez did
The cornerstone of the largest Mosque and Moslem center in
In Andalucía, moderate Moslems belonging to the association known as FEERI (Federacíon Española de Entidades Religiosas Islámicas) containing a considerable number of converts to Islam, is largely identified with the Spanish Socialist party and is critical of continued reliance on Saudi subsidies. Problems continue to grow due to the increase in illegal immigration and the presence of extremists, including agents who have acted on behalf of Al Qaeda. The other organization, the UCIDE (Uníon de Comunidades Islámicas de España), strives to maintain the face of strict orthodoxy.
The Prelude to the
The growing presence of illegal immigrants that has contributed to an explosive growth in
Many Moroccan men are involved in seasonal agricultural labor and are in the country without wives and children. The Socialists have capitalized on some of the Moroccan resentment towards their low status. Many local authorities, especially those with a socialist majority, have promoted a campaign to appear as friends of the new immigrants and failed to properly enforce rules and ordinances dealing with sanitary measures in butcher shops and slaughter houses and the rules of employment in small open air markets in which many Moroccans are employed.
Polls carried out by the Spanish Center of Sociological Investigation reports that more than half the population consider North African immigrants linked with the increase in crime, drug use, abuse of women and smuggling. Well known downtown areas, such as Lavapiés and Tetuán in
The Bombings, Responsibility and Aftermath
Spanish intelligence long believed that the country was being used by Islamic militants as a logistical base and staging area. Several arrests were made of suspects implicated in the September 11th attack in
It was the work of Islamic fundamentalists in sympathy, if not directly linked, with Al Qaeda. It surprised the government. Prior to the attack at the Madrid train station, Spanish intelligence had not been able to uncover evidence indicating that there were foreign agents among the Moslem community in Spain, ready, willing and able to lend a hand in committing such an atrocious crime on Spanish soil. At first, the authorities were convinced it had been the work of ETA, the Basque separatist organization. Investigators had mistakenly concluded that the explosives used were the type traditionally used by ETA. More than a year earlier however, a bomb attack had been carried out in Casablanca, Morocco directed towards Spaniards and Moroccan Jews at the Spanish cultural institution Casa de España resulting in 30 deaths. The perpetrators were clearly motivated by extremist islamic objectives.
A few days after the train bombings, police identified an apartment in a suburb of
The Strong Undercurrent of Anti-Americanism on the Spanish Left
The overwhelming majority of the Spanish press had been critical of the pro-American stance of Aznár’s government. Spanish journalists have traditionally been hostile to the United States since the Spanish-American War (1898) and the electorate was convinced that if only Spain would abandon its course with respect to the war in Iraq, it could count on continued good economic relations with the Arab world contributing to Spanish prosperity, ensuring a supply of cheap oil and protection from terrorism. The same opportunistic arguments of appeasement had long prevailed during the long period of non-recognition of
The Spanish government under Aznar had taken a risk by supporting American policy in
Failure of the Socialists to Buy Peace from either the Islamic or Basque Extremists
The Basque terrorist separatist organization ETA, although disclaiming any responsibility for this atrocious act, implied in a threat to the newly elected Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero in December 2006 that the March 11, 2004 attacks were an “example of what could happen” unless the government considered their demands and case for independence.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's chief deputy, and "second in command" of Al-Qaeda, who regularly appears on videos sent to the international media through al-Jazeera referred to Spain as recently as September 20, 2007. His address was directed to ..."Our Muslim nation in the Maghreb zone of deployment for battle and jihad!" and reminded the Muslims of North Africa that ..."The return of Andalus [today's Spain] to Muslim hands is a duty for the Islamic nation in general and for you in particular."
Attempts by other Islamist extremists to assassinate the judge involved in the trial of suspects who were apprehended and charged with the bombings also proved that the Socialist victory in the election and the withdrawal of Spanish forces from the Allied effort in
The Spanish police and Spanish judiciary indicted a loose group of Moroccan, Syrian, and Algerian Muslims inspired by al-Qaeda and two Guardia Civil and Spanish police informants who planned the March 11 attacks. Twenty-nine suspects have been tried for their involvement in the train bombings. On January 4, 2007 the newspaper El País reported that the Algerian Daoud Ouhnane, considered to be the mastermind of the bombings, has been searching for a way to reenter
On October 31, 2007, the verdicts were handed down - 21 were found guilty on a range of charges from forgery to murder. Two of the defendants were sentenced each to more than 40,000 years in prison, but Spanish law limits the actual time served to 40 years. The reaction by a majority of the Spanish public was outrage and consternation that the government had mismanaged the case, shown absurd leniency and only given a further green light to terrorism.
Since his election in 2004, Zapatero recalled all the Spanish forces (1,300 troops who had proven themselves very effective) serving in Iraq, then during a visit to Tunisia, asked all of the countries with troops in Iraq to withdraw their soldiers thus imitating his decision. Zapatero broke with all protocol by openly calling for the election of Democratic candidate John Kerry in the 2004 elections, has spoken out in very strong terms against President Bush and the concept of any "Clash of Civilizations" (proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington in 1993) between Islam and Christianity. He has ignored all references by Islamic extremists that Spain (like, Israel, Chechniya, Greece) were all formerly part of Dar-al-Islam (territories that once submitted to the will of Allah and must be maintained or "recovered"), rescinded the sale of airplanes to Colombia for use in combatting guerilla terrorism, used his influence to try and moderate economic pressure on the Castro regime in Cuba and ignored human rights abuses there. He sponsored a referendum on the European Constitution in which only 40% of Spaniards voted in contrast to the Dutch and French rejection of the Constitution. Zapatero also manage to provoke a diplomatic crisis with Poland by supporting measures that would preserve a much stronger voice for Germany and France in the management of European union affairs and shut out any increased influence by the Poles inspite of their large population. At the end of March 2005, he travelled to Venezuela to sign a deal to sell Hugo Chavez's regime a warship and aircraft worth around $1000 million. Zapatero fully supports recent legislation to legalize both same-sex marriage and adoption of children by same sex couples.
Zapatero's sharp rejection of the Huntington thesis must certainly have played a role in his defensive attitude and the less than vigorous prosecution of the terrorists involved in the Madrid bombings. Following the suicide attacks against innocent civilians in Spain and the United States on 9/11, Bali (mostly Australians), London, India, several failed attempts to commit terrorist acts in France and Germany, Hizbollah's use of Gaza and Lebanon to spark missile attacks against Israel and the world-wide campaign of intimidation and massive violent demonstrations against Danish interests in the wake of the cartoon affair, ordinary Spanish civilians have seen that they too are no safer under a policy of continued appeasement of radical Islam. A few weeks ago, 14 men (12 Pakistani Muslims and two Indians) were charged in Barcelona with plotting to blow up metro and other transportation facilities across Europe. Socialist leader Felipe Gonzalez concluded more than 20 years ago that Spain had gained nothing by its appeasement of extremists in the Arab world and continued rejection of diplomatic relations with Israel. Perhaps the upcoming national Spanish elections on March 9th will tell if the voters have drawn any conclusions about the verdicts handed down at the trial and the policies of the Zapatero government.
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