written by Rita Gomes Faria
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The capital of Spain has a population of 3,287,630. The 17.4 percent (574,869) is of foreign origin. As there are no census or official records of the religious faith of the population living in Spain, one way to estimate the number of Muslim population is by approaching the statistics about foreign population coming from countries that have a majority of Muslim population.1) So, in this text, when we refer to Muslim population we shall be referring to national origins, and most often to those that have a significant presence. One should be careful though, as this communities are settling for a growing length of time and are changing their nationality by naturalizing as Spaniards, children are being born in Spain who may continue to be Muslim but of Spanish nationality, a person may have been born in a Muslim majority country and profess a minority religion, and, finally, Spanish conversions to Islam are almost impossible to quantify.
Holding this in mind we may start by saying that today the major population of Muslim faith comes from Morocco, although it was not so in the early 1970’s. In those days many students arrived from the Middle East – Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon – to study medicine at the Spanish Universities, and they were the ones to create in Madrid the first Muslim association, the Asociación Musulmana de España, in the year 1971. Although there were other presences in the territory, as the Muslim Brotherhood and the At-tala’i, this was the only association registered as a religious one at the Ministry of Justice until the year 1986.
The 80’s were also a decade of conversion to the Muslim religion by an important number of Spanish citizens. Although they do not represent an important figure numerically (there are no available figures to account for the number of converts but in no case do they surpass 10 percent of the whole Muslim population), it is important to take them into account as they were many times related to the left-wing political parties and were active agents in the process of negotiation with the Spanish state of the public presence of Islam.
The presence of Islam is amplified in the 1990’s with the arrival of immigrants from countries of Muslim majority, especially from Morocco. The 1992 extraordinary regularization process attracted and most often legalized a great number of immigrants that were living in Madrid without need for official documents. From the very first moment the Moroccan population appears as the most relevant figure and continues to be so until today. According to the Municipal Register -that collects data on the whole population regardless of their legal or illegal residence status (in the case of foreign population)- Moroccans represent the 4.66 percent of all foreign population in Madrid. The other relevant communities from Muslim majority countries observe a great comparative numerical difference: population from Bangladesh represents 0.69 percent, from Senegal 0.44 percent, from Mali 0.43 percent, from Nigeria2 0.33 percent, from Algeria 0.2 percent and from Pakistan 0.19 percent.3
|Country of origin||Total||% over total population of the city of Madrid||% over foreign population|
|Total population of Madrid||3,287,630||100||17.4|
|Total population of foreigners in Madrid||574,869||17.4||100|
Source: Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Hall). Padrón Municipal de Habitantes (Municipal Register), 1 January 2009. http://www.munimadrid.es. Compiled by: Rita Gomes Faria.
The crisis that is affecting worldwide economy had an impact on the immigration numbers in Madrid and one can see in the graphics below that the number of people from Muslim majority countries has been descending, although it is starting to remount again from 2008 on.
Source: Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Hall). Padrón Municipal de Habitantes (Municipal Register), 1 January 2002 – 1 January2009. http://www.munimadrid.es. Compiled by: Rita Gomes Faria.
Source: Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Hall). Padrón Municipal de Habitantes (Municipal Register), 1 January 2002-1 January 2009. http://www.munimadrid.es. Compiled by: Rita Gomes Faria.
Concerning the distribution of the population from Muslim majority countries in the city of Madrid, the districts that have more Muslim presence are Centro -mostly the neighbourhoods of Lavapíes and Embajadores-, Puente de Vallecas and Villaverde (three areas that have traditionally been occupied by migrants), followed by the districts of Carabanchel, Latina and Tetuan.
Population from Muslim majority countries in each district in the city of Madrid
|Area in Madrid||Morocco||Bangladesh||Senegal||Mali||Total foreigners||Spanish citizens|
|8. Fuencarral-El Pardo||1.344||23||28||24||24,629||202,192|
|13. Puente de Vallecas||3,423||184||295||359||49,589||196,689|
|15. Ciudad Lineal||1.142||61||99||31||41,896||188,331|
|18. Villa de Vallecas||1,602||12||58||62||13,864||67,130|
|20. San Blas||559||13||46||86||23,068||134,935|
Source: Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Hall). Padrón Municipal de Habitantes (Municipal Register), 1 January 2009. http://www.munimadrid.es. Compiled by: Rita Gomes Faria.
The two stages of the presence of Islam in Spain –before and after the 1990’s- become obvious when we analyse the number of Muslim religious entities registered at the Ministry of Justice. Until 1992 there were only six religious entities in Madrid: the Asociación Musulmana de España (1971), the Comunidad Musulmana Marroquí de Madrid Al-Umma (1986), the Comunidad Islámica de Madrid (1990), the Centro Islámico de Formación Religiosa (1990), the Comunidad Islámica An-Nisa (1990), and the Liga del Mundo Islámico -Centro Religioso-Cultural Islámico de Madrid- (1992). Today there are 30 religious entities in the city of Madrid. Religious entities are religious groupings with juridical entity recognized by the Ministry of Justice. This denomination includes religious communities as well as associations and federations. It must not be mistaken for the number of mosques. All the mosques registered at the Ministry of Justice (Registro de Entidades Religiosas4) are religious entities but not all Islamic religious entities are mosques. Federations and associations are also registered and acquire juridical personality as religious entities.
It is notable that when comparing population figures for foreigners from Muslim-majority nations with the geographical location of religious entities, we observe that Centro, Villaverde and Tetuan concentrate the Muslim presence of both population and institutions.
However it is also relevant to consider the fact that the Housing is much more costly in the capital city, and that many Muslim immigrants moved to the surrounding municipalities, creating small religious communities there. So, if we consider the whole Comunidad de Madrid we can find up to 80 mosques and prayer halls (usually of very small size and in poor conditions). Other important sites of Muslim religious entities presence are Collado Villalba, Aranjuez, Fuenlabrada, Leganés and Getafe, followed by Colmenar Viejo, Humanes de Madrid, Torrejón de Ardoz, Galapagar, Navalcarnero, Móstoles, Alcorcón and Parla. These are municipalities where the presence of Moroccan population is also noteworthy.
Moroccan population in some municipalities of the Comunidad de Madrid:
Moroccan population in some municipalities of the Comunidad de Madrid:
More than 40 percent of the mosques and prayer halls situated in the rest of the Comunidad de Madrid are located in these 14 municipalities.5
In Madrid people from Muslim majority countries are affiliated to the social security mostly as employees (87 percent) and only 13 percent are self-employed.
The main sector of employment is the services (over 60 percent). Within this, most people are working in the commerce sub-sector (13.7 percent) or in the hospitality industry sub-sector (13.4 percent). In both cases, the area of ethnic commerce is highly important.
Construction was a major sector of employment until recent years but the economic crisis in Spain has had a great impact in this area and the unemployment rate of people working in construction has increased. Also, many Muslims working in the construction sector have had to change occupation (many have moved to the countryside to work in agriculture) or are still unemployed. In the year 2008 about 11.6 percent of migrants from Muslim majority countries were affiliated to the social security under this epigraph.
Also the industry sector – mainly the manufacturing industry sub-sector – is an area where we find Muslim populations working (5 percent).
In the case of women, it is also important to notice the domestic service (0.3 percent) and social activities (3.5 percent) as important areas of occupation. When considering these figures one must be careful and remember the existence of informal labor relationships between employee and employer in the domestic service area.
Comisión Islámica de España (C.I.E.)6
In the year 1989 a group of converts to Islam created the Federación Española de Entidades Religiosas Islámicas (F.E.E.R.I.) with the purpose of drawing together all the Muslims in Spain and becoming the interlocutor before the central state in the negotiations of an official agreement in the 1990’s. It was formed mostly by Spanish converts to Islam but received an important amount of financial support from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran and Morocco. During negotiations, many disagreements between the different communities involved in the process caused the dissolution of F.E.E.R.I. Seven communities, including Syrian and Palestinian students, formed a new federation called Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España (U.C.I.D.E.7). In face of the coming out of a third party in the negotiations, issues of inadequate representation arose and the Spanish state demanded a single interlocutor in all matters concerning the Muslim community. As a result, both federations joined a single entity named the Comisión Islámica de España (Spanish Islamic Commission/C.I.E.), which was the group to be included in the 1992 agreement, “Acuerdo de Cooperación del Estado Español con la Comisión Islámica de España”8
This entity experienced difficulties in operation from the beginning due to the existence of duplicated hierarchic posts: its Permanent Commission is composed of three members of F.E.E.R.I. and three members of U.C.I.D.E., and two of its Secretary Generals are the Presidents of both Federations.
Federating is not mandatory for the Muslim communities, and each one may choose freely to which to federate, choose to change federation at any time, or choose not to federate at all. As we saw before, many new communities have appeared and new federations have been created across the Spanish state since the signing of the Agreement in 1992, in part due to internal leadership problems of other federations.
The origins of U.C.I.D.E. can be traced back to the Asociación Musulmana de España, the first Muslim association to be registered in Madrid in 1971. This association functioned, as it does today, as a federation that included other smaller Muslim communities from all over the country. The President of the Asociación Musulmana de España, Riay Tatary Bakri, is still today simultaneously the President of U.C.I.D.E. For the case of F.E.E.R.I., the chairmanship of the current President Abdelkarim Carrasco is being charged with irregular administration by the communities associated with the Federación Islámica de Murcia9
In the case of Madrid, U.C.I.D.E. has federated more Muslim communities: 240 entities (40 of which are in the Comunidad de Madrid), compared to the 62 that are federated by F.E.E.R.I. (12 of which are in the Comunidad de Madrid). For the case of the Comunidad de Madrid, in the year 2006 the Federación Musulmana de España (FEME) was created, an entity that gathers 15 of the 19 Muslim communities present in the northern region of the Comunidad de Madrid.
The national head offices of the C.I.E. are the headquarters of the two Islamic Federations that compose it (those being the two main mosques in the city of Madrid).
Mezquita Omar de Madrid or Mezquita de la M-3010
This mosque, which is now the reference for all the diplomatic posts from Muslim countries in Madrid, is the home of the Centro Cultural Islámico. It was built on grounds donated by the Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid City Hall) during the governance of the socialist mayor Enrique Tierno Galván on the occasion of a visit of the Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud whom contributed to the construction of the building with 2.000 million pesetas. The Mezquita Omar de Madrid, also known as Mezquita de la M-30, was inaugurated in 1992 with the presence of the Kings of Spain (Juan Carlos I and Sofia of Borbón) and of the Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz. The mosque depends on the Muslim World League11, the Islamic non-governmental institution founded in Mecca in the sixties, whose funding comes from different Muslim countries but mostly from Saudi Arabia. The Mosque holds the head office of the Federación Española de Entidades Religiosas Islámicas (F.E.E.R.I.).
The Centro Cultural Islámico de Madrid has established a religious authority for the monitoring of the ritual sacrifice of animals according to the halal rites at Spanish slaughterhouses as they have the right to grant the “marca de garantía halal” (halal guarantee brand)12
Mezquita Abu-Bakr or Mezquita de Estrecho
This mosque is the headquarters of U.C.I.D.E. In 1988, supposedly with the financial support of personal donations of Muslims from all over the world, the Comunidad Islámica de Madrid, in cooperación with the Asociación Musulmana de España, built the Mezquita Abu-Bakr, also known as the Mezquita de Estrecho. At the time it was the most important mosque in the city, but now that position is held by the Mezquita de la M-30. It also holds the Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de Madrid, a local federation created by the President of U.C.I.D.E.13
As a result of the “Acuerdo de Cooperación del Estado Español con la Comisión Islámica de España” agreement of 1992, the Comunidad de Madrid, by initiative of the Socialist Party, developed the “Convenio Marco de Colaboración entre la Comunidad de Madrid y la Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España” in 1998. The agreements established between the Spanish state and the Muslim national community were applied at the autonomic level. The agreement is structured in three parts:
I. Institutional relations: Supports dialogue and cooperation between the two entities.
II. Culture: Where the autonomic government takes concern in the encouragement of the participation of the Muslim population in all cultural activities, in the restoration of Islamic patrimony and the organization of activities to promote tolerance and solidarity.
III. Social Work: To take social care of Muslims in social disadvantage, to promote the cession of public grounds for the building of cemeteries and mosques, to facilitate halal food in public hospitals, public kindergartens and public facilities of social aid, to attend the special needs of Muslim immigrants, and to promote educational programmes for fighting school failure by Muslim students.
The signature of this agreement is interesting as it shows the move by U.C.I.D.E. as to become the main interlocutor with the autonomic government in that it implies the acknowledgment of U.C.I.D.E. as the valid reference to the Comunidad de Madrid in all issues related to the Islamic religion.
Apart from the small prayer hall, the main mosques and entities related to them, there are other Muslim organizations present in Madrid:
-The Asociación de Universitarios de Madrid: heiress to the Asociación de Estudiantes Marroquíes de Madrid created in 1993, it is composed by Moroccans that originally came to Spain to continue their university education14
-The Forjadores de Vida (Sunnaa Al Hayat ): this is the Madrid representation of the international NGO based on the movement led by the Egyptian TV-preacher Amr Khaled. In Spain the first group is created around 2004 in the town of Mataró (Catalonia),
-The Asociación ONDA: heiress to the Al Adl w-al-Ihsan (Justice and Spirituality Movement). This is a spiritual-political movement created in Morocco by Abdelssalam Yassine in contestation for the religious leadership of the King of Morocco (Amir Al Muminín). In Spain its members fight for the rights of Moroccans as Muslims and citizens, and provide social support to immigrants as well as participate in the education of imams (through the Liga de Imames de España15)
Other associations exist, constituted mainly by sons and daughters of immigrants, generally university students, whom, on the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of the 11th of March of 2004 show motivation for the spread of awareness on social issues among Muslim population and to make known the true meanings of Islamic religion to the general population. These are:
-The Asociación de Jóvenes Musulmanes de Madrid: created in 2004, it is composed by young sons and daughters of Syrian, Jordanian and Palestinian immigrants,
-The Asociación Cultural Tayba: also created in 2004, it has a more diversified composition as it draws together youngsters born in Spain from Moroccan immigrant parents, Moroccan youngsters sent for by their parents whom had immigrated to Spain, Spanish converts to Islam and also non-Muslims.
Even though the “Acuerdo de Cooperación del Estado Español con la Comisión Islámica de España” states the right of Muslim students to receive an Islamic education in both public and private schools (Ley 26/1992, de 10 de noviembre, Art. 10, B.O.E. nº 272 de 12 de noviembre), in Madrid there are no teachers of Islamic religion in primary or secondary public education.
Islamic education is therefore primarily provided by mosques. Generally all mosques, in spite of their size, provide Arabic and Islam courses for children and adults. Usually it is the imam himself who also carries out the duties of teacher of religion. In some cases, in communities with a strong presence of young university students, these may work as volunteer teachers. In both cases, the conditions on which these courses are taught are not sufficient as generally the communities lack both the physical space and the material resources as to provide positive educational results.
In Madrid there are some private schools that have religious education on their syllabus. They are:
-The Escuela Iraquí en Madrid16: This school had been providing for an Islamic education in Madrid since the year 1977. Along with the common subjects of primary and secondary education, the school offered Islamic Education, Arabic and Koran as specific subjects to 100 students, mainly of Iraqi origin but also of Spanish, Libyan, Saudi and Moroccan origin. It closed its doors in the year 2005 as a consequence of the fall of the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
-The Escuela Al-Fateh Arabe: This school offers primary and secondary education accord to the Libyan educational system for the children of the employees of the Libyan Embassy in Madrid.
-The Instituto Saudí Umm Al-Qurá: This private school, that offers both kindergarten, primary and secondary education to over 300 students, was connected to the Centro Cultural Islámico de Madrid from its origin in 1993 until the year 1998, when it became an independent institution17 The school follows the syllabus of the Saudi Arabian educational system and receives students from Saudi Arabia but also of Moroccan, Egyptian, Iranian and Spanish origin.
There is no presence of Muslims among local or autonomic elected politicians.
Muslims are perceived as a unified group, sharing beliefs but also behaviours and ways of living. They are seen as people for whom the religious practice and belief is dominant in their everyday life, often preventing them from participating in more wide social relationships. The true diversity of national origins, doctrinal disparities, social and political differences is most frequently not regarded. The distrust the Spanish population may feel for the Muslim identity is in most cases connected to the wariness they feel about the Moroccan immigrants (also called contemptuously Moros).
The bombings perpetrated on the 11th of March of 2004 showed us an image of unity among the population of Madrid. Some of the people killed in the trains were of Islamic faith and during the day of the attacks and the days that followed there were no public demonstrations against the Muslim population neither individual confrontations. During the civil society manifestations that took place the following days one of the most common slogans was “Todos íbamos en ese tren” (We all were in that train), showing how citizenship made an effort to differentiate the Muslims living in Spain from those placing the bombs.18 What was noticed was an increase of the police stop and search of population with a Muslim/Arabic appearance. In some exceptional cases, as in the Fuenlabrada municipality, the police has activated strategies for a more effective police stop and search, as the Moroccan population was becoming scarce of police officers. In any case, it was much more the newspapers that, in the following weeks, intensified the news on Islam in Spain, the incorporation of immigrants of Islamic religion in the Spanish society, and the need for control of the messages imams spread through the mosques. Curiously enough some associations of migrants -as the ATIME (Asociación de Trabajadores Inmigrantes Marroquíes en España)- demands from the Spanish state a higher control over the choosing of the imams and the religious activities of the Muslim communities.
In the year 2002 the story of Fatima Elidrisi was in the public eye. On the written press, on television, on the Internet… everywhere was the image of Fatima, being refused education in a public school for wearing the hijab. The girl had arrived in Spain in the middle of the school year and the Comisión de Escolarización Municipal (Concejalía de Educación del Ayuntamiento de San Lorenzo del Escorial ) designated a state-sponsored religious school for her, the Colegio Inmaculada Concepción. The nuns conditioned her acceptance to the abandonment of the hijab. In face of the girls’ father refusal, she was designated to another school, this time the Juan de la Herrera Public School. This second school complained to the Comisión about having to receive the troublesome students that were being neglected by the state-sponsored private schools. However, in interviews given to different journalists, the School Principal mentioned the girls hijab and related it to the discrimination of women. From then on, the debate focused on the hijab and on women’s (and girls) human rights. It became the first headscarf affaire in Spain.
The most important event to report in Madrid is the terrorist attack perpetrated the 11th of March of 2004 by the Al Qaeda, when nine backpacks full of explosives exploded on the inside of four trains, arriving from the outskirts of Madrid (Alcalá de Henares) and Guadalajara at rush hour (07:36-07:40), in the Atocha (seven explosions), El Pozo (two explosions) and Santa Eugenia (one explosion) railway stations. In this incident 191 persons were killed and 1.858 turned out injured. A few weeks later the police found part of the terrorist command in a town in the outskirts of Madrid called Leganés and the bombers committed suicide by exploding the house where they had been in hiding, causing the death of a police officer. This bombings were perpetrated only three days before the general elections and there was a heated public debate on the fact that one of the main reasons for the Partido Popular to loose the elections was its denial of the authorship of the bombings, claiming that they were by ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, the terrorist group created in 1959 in the País Vasco) when most of the international news agencies and newspapers were already mentioning Al Qaeda.
Still, this was not the only incident occurring in Madrid. In April of 1985 a bomb exploded in a restaurant called “El Descanso” known for being commonly visited by American militaries of the American Air Base in Torrejón de Ardoz. Supposedly the attack was perpetrated by the Islamic Yihad, motivated by the armed conflict in Lebanon. In this attack 18 people were killed and 82 were wounded.
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(2007), Aquí y allí: vínculos transnacionales y comunitarios de los inmigrantes musulmanes en Europa, Real Instituto Elcano, Documento de Trabajo nº 9, 14 de marzo.
(2008), “La diversidad de los inmigrantes musulmanes en Europa” in Victor Pérez-Diaz (coord.) Colección Mediterráneo Económico – Modernidad, crisis y globalización: problemas de política y cultura (nº 14), Madrid: Cajamar Caja Rural, pp. 185-202.
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JIMÉNEZ-AYBAR, Iván (2006), “Tras el 11-M: presente y futuro del proceso de institucionalización del Islam en España”, Derecho y religión, nº 1, pp. 67-86.
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- We defined a country as of Muslim majority according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (2009 [↩]
- One should be aware of figures concerning countries as Nigeria (that the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life provides a 50.4 percent of Muslim population), as in the case of Madrid there is a very important number of people of Nigerian origin that profess the Christian faith and attend Christian churches both in Madrid or in surrounding municipalities as Fuenlabrada. [↩]
- Islam in Madrid is mainly Sunni but there is also some population from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon that profess Shí’isme. [↩]
- In Relaciones con las Confesiones (Secretaria de Estado de Justicia – Ministerio de Justicia):
- There are 200 municipalities in the Comunidad de Madrid [↩]
- http://muslim.multiplexor.es/promo.cie.htm. See the Country Profile (Spain) for more extensive information on the C.I.E., U.C.I.D.E. and F.E.E.R.I. [↩]
- http://www.ucide.org [↩]
- The full document is available at the website of the Ministry of Justice:
- Leaded by Munir Benyelún, who supposedly is also a member of the Justice and Spirituality movement (Al Adl w-al-Ihsan). [↩]
- http://www.ccislamico.com [↩]
- The religious entity registered at the Ministry of Justice is Liga del Mundo Islámico (Centro Religioso-Cultural Islámico de Madrid). [↩]
- There is also a trademark called “Halal Guarantee Brand of the Junta Islámica” registered at the Office of Patents and Brands by the Instituto Halal (Halal Institute) http://www.institutohalal.com . This institution, located in Andalucía, was created by the Junta Islámica in 1989, an association composed mainly by converts to Islam. Its President, Mansur Escudero, was also the President of F.E.E.R.I. until de year 2000 (when he was replaced by Abdelkarim Carrasco) and Secretary General of C.I.E. until de the 2006. http://www.juntaislamica.org [↩]
- Today it does not have an active agenda as it was created in case a local federation was required in the future. [↩]
- This is a cultural association but the amount of activities organized in which Islam is present in one way or another makes us refer to them. [↩]
- The President of the Liga de Imames de España, Rachid Boutarbouch, is also the visible face of Adl w-al-Ihsan in Spain. [↩]
- http://www.educa.madrid.org/web/ce.escuelairaqui.madrid/ [↩]
- Although currently the school is functioning at the grounds of the Centro Cultural Islámico (Mezquita Omar de Madrid or Mezquita de la M-30), the principalship and the government of Saudi Arabia are trying to buy a building, preferably of an old school, to transfer. [↩]
- There is a collective documentary called “Madrid 11-M: Todos íbamos en ese tren” (Production: Spain, 2004), in which 23 short films pay tribute to the victims of the bombing, among them one called “Un dia sin luz”, by Jose F. Echeverría, that tells about the death in one of the trains of a 13 year old Muslim girl. [↩]