July - Sept 2008, Spain

Islam Comforts Spanish Intellectuals

By Al-Amin Andalusi

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1221720273234&pagename =Zone-English-News/NWELayout

September 25, 2008

MADRID Thousands of Spaniards, especially intellectuals, academics and anti-globalization activists, are finding comfort and solace in Islam.

“Embracing Islam is on the rise despite ferocious Western media campaigns,” Abdul-Nour Brado, the head of the Islamic Society of Catalonia, told IslamOnline.net.

Estimates suggest that between 3,000 to 4,000 Catalonians accepted Islam recently.

“The numbers could be much higher than that,” Barado believes.

Local media reports have noted that intellectuals, academics and anti-globalization activists make up the bulk of the new Muslim reverts in Spain.

Catalonians first embraced Islam in the 1960s and their numbers were quite few.

Now thousands of Catalonians are believed to have joined the fold of Islam.

The Spanish autonomous province of Catalonia covers an area of 31,950 km² with an official population of 6.3 million, and its capital is Barcelona.

It is home to around 100,000 Moroccan immigrants, which is attributed to the geographical proximity with Morocco.

The southern European country has an estimated Muslim minority of about at 1.5 million out of a total population of 40 million.

Islam is the second religion after Christianity and has been recognized through the law of religious freedom, issued in July 1967.


More Spaniards in the northern province of Palencia, in the northern part of the autonomous community of Castile and Leon, are also finding solace in Islam.

“Nearly 4,000 people in Palencia embrace Islam every year,” said Saed Al-Ruttabi, the head of the Islamic Council of Palencia.

He said many Spaniards start their soul-searching journey by delving deep into the Islamic faith.

“And when they do so, they discover that the faith is quite different from the perceptions they had.”

Al-Ruttabi noted that out of the 150,000 Muslims in Palencia, only 90,000 are of immigrant backgrounds.

“This reflects a global trend not only in Spain but across Europe and the US.”

But the rising number of reverts is creating a “cultural problem” in the southern European country.

“New Muslims tend not to attend prayers in the mosques of Muslim immigrants,” Barado said, attributing this to “cultural differences”.

“This is because the reverts believe that such mosques have become like social centers for immigrant Muslims.”

But Mohamed Halhul, a spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Council of Catalonia, sees a positive side.

“Differences between Muslim immigrants and new Muslims are a positive sign in a democratic country.”