Muslim countries in the Persian Gulf and North Africa are funnelling large sums of money to radical Islamic groups in towns and cities across Spain in a competing effort to exert control over the estimated 1.5 million Muslims in the country.
A newly leaked secret report prepared by Spain's National Intelligence Center (CNI), excerpts of which were published by the Madrid-based El País newspaper on July 31, says the Spanish government is struggling to stop the flow of tens of millions of dollars to Islamic groups in Spain from Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and above all Saudi Arabia.
The CNI report states: "The financing is having negative consequences for [multicultural] coexistence in Spain, such as the emergence of parallel societies and ghettos, Islamic courts and police that operate outside of Spanish jurisprudence, removing girls from schools, forced marriages, etc."
It continues: "There is insufficient control of financial flows involving grants and aid from other countries that are being funnelled to the Islamic community in Spain. For the most part donors are using alternative channels to ensure that their donations escape the control of the regular Spanish financial system. Donors should be made fully aware of the risks associated with such financing."
According to El País, two high-level officials from the Spanish Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs travelled to the Persian Gulf in June seeking cooperation from Kuwait, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. In May, the Spanish Justice Ministry summoned the ambassadors of several Gulf Arab states to a meeting in Madrid in which Spanish officials requested their cooperation in bringing order to the financing of Islam in Spain.
At the meeting in Madrid, Spanish officials distributed a document titled "System of Channelling the Flow of Funds to Islamic Communities in Spain." The document, which is in Spanish, English and Arabic, explains that henceforth Spanish authorities want all donations from the Gulf Arab states to be channelled through the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), a group the Spanish government says should be the official representative for Muslims in Spain.
Spanish authorities say Arab countries are flooding mosques in Spain with a host of anti-Western literature. For example, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in Qatar has distributed a document in Spanish titled "Mohammed: The Ideal Prophet" which states: "Europe today still considers that the white race is superior to that of color. Europe, with all its pretensions to enlighten and lead … is still behind Islam."
The leaked CNI document says Kuwait is one of the worst offenders. Through the Society for the Revival of Islamic Heritage (RIHS), the Kuwaiti government has funded the construction of mosques in the Spanish municipalities of Reus and Torredembarra (Catalonia), from which Islamic preachers are "spreading a religious interpretation that opposes the integration of Muslim into Spanish society and promotes the separation and hate towards non-Muslim groups. … In the medium term, the RIHS plans to open a delegation in Spain." In June 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the RIHS for bankrolling Al Qaeda.
Qatar, by contrast, funnels most of its donations through the Islamic League for Dialogue and Coexistence in Spain, a group the CNI says is "linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria" and which controls the Catalan Islamic Cultural Center. Qatar recently paid €300,000 ($450,000) to renovate that center, which is based in Barcelona.
The United Arab Emirates is focussing its efforts on providing financial support to Muslims in the southern region of Andalusia. Al-Andalus was the Arabic name given to the parts of Spain ruled by Muslim conquerors from 711 and 1492. Many Muslims believe that the territories they lost during the Spanish Reconquista still belong to them, and that they have a right to return and establish their rule there – a belief based on the Islamic precept that territories once occupied by Muslims must forever remain under Muslim domination.
In this context, the United Arab Emirates, together with Libya and Morocco, paid for the construction of the Great Mosque of Granada. Says Abdel Haqq Salaberria, a spokesman for the mosque: "It will act as a focal point for the Islamic revival in Europe. It is a symbol of a return to Islam among the Spanish people and among indigenous Europeans."
The United Arab Emirates, together with Kuwait, Morocco and Egypt, are also involved in a project to make Córdoba the "Mecca of the West" by turning the ancient city into a pilgrimage site for Muslims throughout Europe. Muslims in Córdoba are demanding that the Spanish government allow them to worship in the main cathedral, which had been a mosque during the medieval Islamic kingdom of Al-Andalus and is now a World Heritage Site.
The CNI report says Saudi Arabia is the most generous donor to Muslim causes in Spain and many of its donations to a never-ending list of Islamic groups and causes are funnelled through the Saudi Embassy in Madrid. Much of the Saudi money is for the construction of mosques in Spain.
Riyadh, for example, built the six-story, 12,000 square meter (130,000 square feet) Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, which opened in 1992 and is one of the biggest mosques in Europe. Saudi Arabia also built the €22 million ($30 million) Islamic Cultural Center in Málaga, a small city in southern Spain that is home to almost 100,000 Muslims. (The center's website includes "news" with headlines such as "Christian Palestine under Zionist Occupation.")
Saudi Arabia, which also built the "great mosques" in the Spanish cities of Marbella and Fuengirola, has been accused of using the mosques and Islamic cultural centers in Spain to promote the Wahhabi sect of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism rejects all non-Wahhabi Islam, any dialogue with other religions and any opening up to other cultures. By definition, it also rejects the integration of Muslim immigrants into Spanish society.
In December 2000, the Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid was expelled from the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) to "frustrate the attempts of Saudi Arabia to control Islam in Spain." Most Muslim immigrants in Spain are from the Maghreb (especially Morocco and Algeria) or Pakistan; analysts say their low standards of living and low levels of education make them particularly susceptible to the Islamist propaganda promoted by Saudi Arabia.
Not to be outdone, Morocco recently co-sponsored a weeklong seminar in Barcelona titled "Muslims and European Values" during which it was proposed that the construction of big mosques would be "a useful formula" to fight Islamic fundamentalism in Spain.
According to Noureddine Ziani, a Barcelona-based Moroccan imam: "It is easier to disseminate fundamentalist ideas in small mosques set up in garages where only the members of the congregation attend, than in large mosques that are open to everyone, with prayer rooms, cafes and meeting areas." He also said it is absolutely necessary to accept Islamic values as European values and that from now on, Europeans should replace the term "Judeo-Christian" with term "Islamo-Christian" when describing Western Civilization.
Meanwhile, the Madrid-based ABC newspaper reports that more than 100 mosques in Spain have radical imams preaching to the faithful each Friday. The newspaper says some imams have established religious police that harass and attack those who do not comply with Islamic law. ABC also reports that during 2010, more than 10 Salafist conferences were held in Spain, compared to only one in 2008.
Salafism is a branch of revivalist Islam that calls for restoring past Muslim glory by re-establishing an Islamic empire across the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe. Salafists view Spain as a Muslim state that must be re-conquered for Islam.
The irony (or maybe not) is that all of the Muslim countries supporting Jihad in Spain also support the Alliance of Civilizations, a post-modern initiative proudly launched by Spain's Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2005 as a way to "bridge the divide" between the West and Islam.
In practice, however, the Alliance of Civilizations has turned out to be a one-way bridge: Islam has been invited to cross over into the West and the West has been invited to stand by and watch. As for Spain's belated efforts to control the spread of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula, it is probably too little too late.