Controversies over Islam dominated the Christmas and New Year holidays in Spain this year.
These conflicts reflect the growing influence of Islam in Spain after mass immigration from Muslim countries. They are a harbinger of things to come, especially as the Muslim population in Spain is predicted to double within the next fifteen years.
Demography, not surprisingly, is a major topic of debate in Spain. Spanish newspapers, for example, reported that the first child born in Spain in 2012 was Fatima, whose parents are Muslim. According to one estimate, a whopping 75% of all the babies born in Spain on January 1, 2012 were born to immigrant parents, primarily from Morocco.
This trend is not a new: the first babies born in Spain in 2005, 2009 and 2011 were all born to Muslim parents. Since 1990, the Muslim population in Spain has risen from just 100,000 to an estimated 1.3 million in 2011. At the same time, native Spaniards are leaving Spain in droves. The economic crisis in Spain – nearly one in four Spaniards (five million in all) are unemployed – is spurring a mass exodus of native Spaniards, who are looking for work in other countries, such as Britain, Germany and the United States.
Demographers estimate that more than 150,000 native Spaniards left Spain in 2011, on top of 128,655 who left in 2010 and 102,432 who left in 2009. A total of 1.7 million Spaniards are now living abroad. With the economic turmoil set to intensify in 2012, emigration from Spain is expected to increase even further.
Islamists are also stepping up calls for an "Andalusia Spring" to reclaim "occupied" Spain for Islam, in the same way they believe they have the right to reclaim all of present day Israel, which had once been under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Andalusia, a region in southern Spain, derives its name from Al-Andalus, the Arabic name given to those parts of Spain, Portugal and France that were occupied by Muslim conquerors (also known as the Moors) from 711 to 1492.
Many Muslims believe -- based on the Islamic precept that all territories once occupied by Muslims must forever remain under Muslim domination -- that all territories they lost during the Christian Reconquista of Spain still belong to them, and that they have every right to return and establish their rule there.
According to an exposé by the Madrid-based business newspaper Intereconomía, Internet websites and online discussion forums frequented by Islamists and Jihadists have in recent months been brimming with calls for the Islamization of Spain.
The newspaper says Islamists are accusing Spain of "erasing" the country's Muslim history and are calling for Spain to be brought under Islamic Sharia law. They are also using Internet discussion forums and chat rooms to promote Muslim historical revisionism and sentimentalism in an effort to recruit followers, especially among the young.
WebIslam.com is one such Spanish-language website devoted to the recovery of Al-Andalus. A nostalgic essay entitled, "Al-Andalus is not a Paradise Lost, but a Paradise Present" states: "This is the civilization of Al-Andalus. This civilization is not a lost paradise, but a present paradise, present in all it says and does not say: We Muslims need to stop crying and begin reciting the poems of Abu al Baka Arandi. We must focus on the words: 'We will recover al-Andalus.'"
Other articles use emotional arguments to attract followers. A common theme is that of Muslims who, like many of the five generations of Palestinians whom their Arab brother promise will go back what is now Israel, retain "the keys to their ancestral homes" in Andalusia to which they "hope to return." Ironically, anti-Semitism still seems so deeply implanted and wide-spread among the Spanish, that they have trouble grasping this parallel.
WebIslam.com, in addition, promotes the idea that Muslims discovered America before Spanish Christians led by Christopher Columbus. According to one essay, "However much we want to believe that Christians discovered the Americas, it is obvious that Muslims were already there in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries."
Meanwhile, Jamal Bin Ammar al-Ahmar, an "Andalus-Algerian" university professor who teaches at the Ferhat Abbas University in Sétif in northeastern Algeria, has been engaged in a three-year campaign to persuade Spanish King Juan Carlos to identify and condemn those who expelled the Muslims from Al-Andalus in the fifteenth century. Al-Ahmar is also demanding that the tens of thousands of the descendants of those Muslims expelled from Spain in 1492 be allowed to return there.
Al-Ahmar began his campaign in December 2008 with a letter addressed to Juan Carlos, which called for a "full legal and historical investigation of the war crimes that were perpetrated on the Muslim population of Andalusia by the French, English, European and papal crusaders, whose victims were our poor miserable people, after the collapse of Islamic rule in Andalusia."
The letter speaks of "the injustice inflicted on the Muslim population of Andalusia who are still suffering in the diaspora in exile since 1492."
Al-Ahmar wants the Spanish monarch to apologize "on behalf of his ancestors" and to assume "responsibility for the consequences" that this would entail. He says it is necessary "to identify criminals, to convict retroactively, while at the same time to identify and compensate victims for their calamities and restore their titles." This process would culminate with "a decree that allows immigrants return to their homes in Andalusia, and grant them full citizenship rights and restoration of all their properties."
In other news, Islamic Sharia law arrived in the Basque Country on Christmas Eve when a Chechen immigrant attacked his 24-year-old son-in-law, a Christian, for marrying his 19-year-old daughter, a Muslim.
According to the victim, who goes by the fictitious name Julián Gómez because of the Islamic "death sentence" against him, "My father-in-law wants to kill me so that he can regain his honor because I am a Christian and I married his Muslim daughter. According to him, his daughter should only have married a Chechen Muslim."
The daughter says, "this seems like it is a horror movie, but it is not. I have no doubts that my father is capable of killing my husband to get what he wants. And what he wants is to send me to Chechnya. All my father wants is that we know our native language and focus on our Chechen culture and religion. But I am Spanish. I was five years old when I arrived here. This cannot be."
Back in Madrid, one of the first public acts of Spain's new conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was to name a Muslim, for the first time ever, as the government's delegate to Spain's North African enclave of Melilla.
The Mediterranean enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla – which together occupy 30 square kilometers and are home to about 120,000 mainly Spanish residents – have been ruled by Spain for more than 500 years. Morocco views the Spanish presence as an "occupation" and claims sovereignty, but Madrid insists it will not relinquish control of either place.
In a highly controversial move, Rajoy hopes that by sending Abdelmalik El Barkani to Melilla, he can appease the anger of the Moroccan King, Mohammed VI, who is still fuming over the visit of Spanish King Juan Carlos to the territories in November 2007.
Spanish intelligence agencies are worried that the new Islamist government in Morocco may attempt to incite Moroccan immigrants in Spain to organize demonstrations and riots, to force Rajoy to resolve a series of longstanding disputes between the two countries.
In early December, some 3,000 Moroccans took to the streets in the industrial city of Terrassa to protest recent cuts in social welfare benefits. The size and spontaneity of the demonstration caught local officials by surprise; they had been expecting no more than 300 demonstrators.
Lastly, politicians in Madrid marked the Christmas holidays by inaugurating a major new exhibition to commemorate the 1,300th anniversary of the Arab invasion of Spain. The exhibition, "711: Archaeology and History Between Two Worlds," is being held at the Regional Archaeological Museum in Alcalá de Henares until April 1, 2012.
According to Esperanza Aguirre, the president of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, "the exposition is the only one organized in Spain to commemorate a date as relevant as the Muslim invasion, one of the most thrilling moments in the history of Spain."