A radical Islamic preacher in Spain has been arrested 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 situated 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."
Police say witnesses provided them with recordings of sermons Laaroussi preached at the Badr Mosque in downtown Terrassa (where more than 1,500 people attend prayers services each Friday) in which 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 was questioned by police on March 6 but refused to provide evidence because he does not recognize the legitimacy of the Spanish state. If he is found guilty, Laaroussi could face up to three years in prison.
The incident is just one of a long and growing list of Islam-related controversies in Spain, where the number of Muslims has jumped to an estimated 1.5 million in 2011 from just 100,000 in 1990. As their numbers grow, Muslims in Spain are becoming more assertive than ever before.
In January 2012, for example, two radical Islamic television stations began 24-hour broadcasting to Spanish-speaking audiences in Spain and Latin America from new studios in Madrid. The first channel, sponsored by the government of Iran, will focus on spreading Shiite Islam, the dominant religion in Iran. The second channel, sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia, will focus on spreading Sunni, Wahhabi Islam, the dominant religion in Saudi Arabia.
In December 2011, some 3,000 Muslim immigrants took to the streets of downtown Terrassa to protest recent cuts in social welfare handouts. The size and spontaneity of the protest, which was organized and attended by Moroccan immigrants, caught local officials by surprise.
Also in December, Islamic Sharia law arrived in the Basque city of Bilbao when a Chechen immigrant tried to murder his 24-year-old son-in-law, a Christian, for marrying his 19-year-old daughter, a Muslim.
In September, Muslim immigrants were accused of poisoning dozens of dogs in the city of Lérida, where 29,000 Muslims now make up around 20% of the city's total population. Local residents say Muslims killed the dogs because according to Islamic teaching dogs are "unclean" animals.
Also in September, the regional government in Catalonia revealed that during the first six months of 2011, it prevented 14 forced marriages and the genital mutilation of 24 Muslim girls.
In August, the municipality of Salt, a town near Barcelona where Muslim immigrants now make up 40% of the population, approved a one-year ban on the construction of new mosques. It is the first ban of its kind in Spain. The moratorium follows public outrage over plans to build a mega-mosque financed by Saudi Arabia.
In December 2010, a high school teacher in the southern Spanish city of La Línea de la Concepción was sued by the parents of a Muslim student who said the teacher "defamed Islam" by talking about Spanish ham in class.
Also in December, Lérida became the first municipality in Spain to ban the burqa head covering in all public spaces. Women found violating the ban will be fined up to €600 ($750).
In November 2010, the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, two enclaves in northern Africa, officially recognized the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice), as a public holiday. By doing so, Ceuta and Melilla, where Muslims make up more than 50% of the total populations, became the first Spanish municipalities officially to mark an Islamic holiday since Spain was liberated from Muslim captivity in 1492.
In October 2010, the Islamic Association of Málaga, in southern Spain, demanded that Television Española (TVE), the state-owned national public television broadcaster, stop showing a Spanish-language television series because it was "anti-Muslim" for criticizing certain aspects of Islam, such as forced marriages and the lack of women's rights in Muslim countries.
That same month, residents of the Basque city of Bilbao found their mailboxes stuffed with flyers in Spanish and Arabic from the Islamic Community of Bilbao asking for money to build a 650 square meter (7,000 square feet) mosque costing €550,000 ($735,000). Their website states: "We were expelled [from Spain] in 1609, really not that long ago. … The echo of Al-Andalus still resonates in all the valley of the Ebro [Spain]. We are back to stay, Insha'Allah [if Allah wills it]."
In September 2010, the Watani Association for Freedom and Justice, a local Moroccan activist group, submitted a letter to the Lérida city council in which they asked the mayor to provide them with free land so that they can build a mosque in the city center. The mosque would be financed by Morocco and would compete in Lérida with another mosque project, financed by Saudi Arabia.
Also in September, a discotheque in southern Spanish resort town of Águilas (Murcia) was forced to change its name and architectural design after Islamists threatened to initiate "a great war between Spain and the people of Islam" if it did not.
In January 2010, Mohamed Benbrahim, an imam in the city of Tarragona near Barcelona, was arrested for forcing Fatima Ghailan, a 31-year-old Moroccan woman, to wear a hijab Islamic head covering. The imam had threatened to burn down the woman's house because, according to him, she is "infidel," works outside of the home, drives an automobile and has non-Muslim friends.
In December 2009, nine Islamists in the city of Reus, also near Barcelona, kidnapped a woman, tried her for adultery based on Sharia law, and condemned her to death. The woman just barely managed to escape being executed by fleeing to a local police station.
In another case, a court in Barcelona found Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, a Muslim cleric at a mosque in the southern Spanish city of Fuengirola, guilty of inciting violence against women after he published a book entitled "Women in Islam," in which he advised men on how to beat their wives without leaving incriminating marks. An unrepentant Mustafa characterized his 22 days in jail as a "spiritual retreat."
These conflicts -- and hundreds more like them -- are a harbinger of things to come, especially as the Muslim population in Spain is poised to skyrocket.
Muslim fertility rates are more than double those of an aging native Spanish population. Spain currently has a birth rate of around 1.4, which is far below the 2.1 required for a population to replace itself. At the current rates, demographers say the number of native Spaniards will be reduced to half in about two generations, while during that same period, the Muslim population in Spain will quadruple.
The first child born in Spain in 2012 was Fatima, whose parents are Muslim. According to one estimate, 75% of all babies born in Spain on January 1, 2012 were born to immigrant parents, primarily from Morocco.