Islam, July - Sept 2005

Alicante’s Muslims May Spend Ramadan With no Mosque

By Al-Amin Andalusi
IslamOnline Correspondent


MADRID, September 5, 2005, (IslamOnline.net)

Muslims in the Spanish city of Alicante are facing the bitter possibility of seeing the doors of their only mosque shut down before or during the holy months of Ramadan.

The problem escalated few weeks before the advent of the holy fasting month when the City’s Municipality decided to close down the mosque, in response to complaints by the city’s residents.

Muslims of Alicante have succeeded to convince the local authorities to suspend the closure decision, pending a court ruling on the issue.

The suspension decision followed a meeting between Municipality officials and the mosque’s imam.

IOL Correspondent says despite the fact that the mosque has already met all legal and other requirements the Municipality demanded, it still faces the likely possibility of closure over reasons described by the officials themselves as “incomprehensible”.

Tens of thousands of Muslim migrants in the city, mostly from Moroccan and Algerian origins, found themselves without a mosque at the beginning of September. Following the meeting with the imam, city officials suspended the closure pending the court ruling expected before or even during Ramadan (October 3 or 4).

Big Problem

In statements to the Spanish News Agency (EFE), an Alicante official said a closure notification was sent to the mosque’s officials, carrying a grace period.

But leader of the Muslim minority in the city Najid Khadem told EFE Sunday, September 4, that no such notification was received, adding in case any official notice is sent to the mosque officials a lawyer would handle the case legally.

Khadem added that he could not understand the Municipality’s decision to close the mosque, in light of all requirements being met, except for opening an additional emergency door due to neighbors’ objections.

Alicante Muslims now face the bitter possibility of a “Ramadan without mosque”. The Alicante mosque, that was opened five years ago and can take up to 500 persons, used to work as a gathering place during Ramadan, for both religious and cultural activities.

Awaiting the court ruling on the complaint issued by neighbors, who accuse the mosque of promoting “extremist ideas”, Municipality officials say they are now looking for a venue to establish a new mosque not to prevent thousands of Alicante Muslims from observing their religious rituals.

A local Spanish paper quoted Sunday officials in Alicante as saying it was expected a big Islamic center would be built in the city soon to serve the sizeable minority there.

The complaining neighbors did not give any evidence or document to support their allegations against the mosque. However, Municipality officials have withdrawn their “verbal certificate” to the mosque officials, paving the way for closing the mosque, according to IOL Correspondent.

In Spain , places of worship do not need written permissions to be established or to operate.

Similar Obstacles

According to IOL Correspondent, Alicante Muslims are not the only Muslim grouping facing such obstacles in the European country.

Muslim migrants in a number of Spanish cities are facing growing difficulties in building mosques or even freely expressing their Muslim identity, especially after the March,2004 bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people and was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group.

In Seville , the Great Mosque project was stopped after complaints from local residents. The anti-mosque protests in Seville escalated to the degree that Spanish extremists threw a pig’s head on the construction site of the mosque, believing that would desecrate the site and force Muslims to quit building thereon.

There are some 600 mosques and small praying rooms across Spain, according to official estimates.

Alicante is the site of the remains of a historical mosque believed to have been built over ten centuries ago, with the early days of Islam’s presence in Spain. The site was discovered only last year.