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Mosque closure in Spain teaches Muslim immigrants the possibility of praying in one’s home

Lleida mosque (Photo: Belén Fernández)

Earlier this week, the mosque on Nord Street in the Catalonian city of Lleida, an hour and a half from Barcelona, was closed by order of the city council, which cited a violation of the fire code due to the volume of prayer attendees. According to an article in the July 23 edition of the Spanish daily El País, local imam Abdelwahab Houzi denounced the closure as political:

Houzi, who denies being a salafist, one of the most radical currents in Islam [sic], noted that the closure might be related to his opposition to the prohibition on using the Islamic full veil–principally the burka and the niqab–in municipal buildings [and other areas]. The city council of Lleida was the first in Catalonia [to pass such a prohibition] and was followed by 15 or so other cities and towns.”

El País also quotes the reaction of the mayor of Lleida, Àngel Ros, to Muslim prayers being conducted in the street following the closure of the mosque, which was to inform the Muslim community that he himself prayed in his house. Ros is variously described in the article as a socialist and a practicing Catholic, although nowhere is he forced to defend himself, as Houzi is, against religious stereotypes, thus avoiding an introduction such as: “Ros, who denies being a pedophile…” The emphasis on the domestic nature of Catholic prayers meanwhile calls into question the financial necessity of ubiquitous ornate churches.

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Gypsies triumph in Spain, are now only second-most hated ethnic group

Moroccans in Spain improvise Muslim holiday on patio. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

Moroccans in Spain improvise Muslim holiday on patio. (Photo by Amelia Opalinska.)

A May 23 article appearing in the online version of the Spanish periodical El País posits that schools are a reflection of society and proceeds to cite a survey conducted by an NGO in Valencia, according to which 34% of high school students are in favor of expelling north Africans not only from their classrooms but from Spain, as well. It is not established whether the 34% applies to high school students in Valencia or the country as a whole, but the percentage drops to 28 when it comes to expelling central African immigrants, to 22 for Chinese, and to 12 for Latin Americans. One analysis of the survey results is offered by a representative of an organization devoted to combating racism in schools, who argues that “[e]l problema de la escuela está en las calles, en las familias.”

My friend Amelia and I had experienced problems of a different nature emanating from the Spanish street, and cross-country hitchhiking trips had confirmed the inadvisability of north African expulsion from Spain given that Moroccans were the only demographic group that picked us up aside from drunks and the Guardia Civil. An added advantage of Moroccan presence in the area was that Amelia and I were granted free accommodations in 2003 and 2004 in a town called Frigiliana, at the house of a construction worker named Abdul who also procured employment for us at the local avocado packing facility.

Located in the hills of Andalucía, Frigiliana was home to a few thousand inhabitants who possessed a view of the Mediterranean and a tendency to refer to resident Moroccans as moros. Other atavistic propensities included the insistence on calculating prices in pre-EU currencies and the insistence on employing fascist rhetoric in the workplace, where our avocado packing bosses commanded Amelia and me to work “como una máquina.”

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