Thursday, December 30, 2010

Muslims Trying To Turn Back The Clock In Spain, India--And Israel (Update: Mosques In Spain Skyrocket)

Back in 2007, Reuters carried a story about Muslims who wanted to recapture a sense of their former glory in Spain:
A call for descendents of Muslims expelled from Spain in the seventeenth century to be given preferential terms for Spanish citizenship has highlighted the country's uneasy relationship with its Islamic heritage.

The proposal was made at a meeting this week in Cordoba, a city in Andalusia which was the centre of Islamic civilization in the Iberian peninsula during nearly eight centuries of Moorish rule of much of what is now Spain and Portugal.

In 1609, Spain's King Philip III ordered all Muslims to leave his kingdom, leading to the expulsion of about 300,000 people. Their descendents today mainly live in North Africa and still regard themselves as "Andalusians", after the old name for Muslim Spain -- "Al Andalus"

Giving them preferential terms for Spanish citizenship would be an act of symbolic reconciliation, said Mansur Escudero, head of Spain's Islamic Board, the biggest group representing Spanish Muslims.
Naturally, this caused increased tension, especially there were some with a sense of history just as strong as the Muslims who had something other than reconciliation in mind:

Former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a member of the conservative Popular Party, last year called for Muslims to apologise for invading Spain in the eighth century.
Somehow, I don't think Spain ever got an apology for its Muslim occupation.

More recently, the issue of Muslim history revolved around the status of a mosque in India that had been destroyed in 1992 by a Hindu mob--the issue being whether the Muslims should get the land around the area where the mosque stood, or the Hindus should get the land because they claim the mosque had been built on the birthplace of the god-king Rama after the destruction of the Hindu temple by Muslim invaders in the 16th century.

In the end, a court decided the land would be split between the Muslims and the Hindus--but not evenly:
A court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh said in a judgement on Thursday that the site of a demolished mosque be should be split between Hindus and Muslims. The 1992 demolition of the mosque by Hindu mobs triggered some of India's worst riots, killing 2,000 people.

The court ruled Hindus would get two-thirds of the land and be allowed to keep a makeshift temple that was built over the razed mosque's central dome.

The decision has been met with calm throughout India, despite fears the ruling could spark religious riots.
The decision is striking in that it did not require the land to be divided evenly and that the court did not automatically restore the land to the most recent owner.

Of course, what is even more striking is that the decision did not lead to Muslim riots.

Not surprisingly, the issue of controlling land has come up recently in Israel, where  fake Muslim gravestones made the news:
Around 300 Muslim gravestones destroyed by Israeli bulldozers in a Jerusalem cemetery earlier this week were "fake" and set up in a bid to snatch government land, the city charged on Thursday.
The purpose of the fake graves was to stake Arab claims to state land.

But while the issue is still in the courts, another issue has been raised--similar to the situation in India: what to do with mosques that are no longer mosques:
Islamic Movement activists are also demanding to reclaim the mosque in Caesarea – which is currently a restaurant; the mosque in Ashkelon – which has been converted into a museum; as well as additional mosques in Jerusalem, Tiberius, Kfar Hitim, and the Muslim cemetery in Ashkelon, in addition to thousands of other sites within the Green Line.
The fear is that should Muslim groups succeed in reclaiming even one of these sites, others will be sure to follow--leading to the loss of thousands of dunams of land.

According to a member of the Northern Islamic Movement, there are over 3,500 sites that are sacred to Islam, and have been nationalized, raising concerns at the Israel Land Administration over the increasing number of ownership battles over holy Islamic sites.

The question is whether the authorities in Israel will be able to take as strong a stand as India, and stand firm in the face of what are sure to be an increasing number of Muslim claims.

UPDATE: Lest you think that unlike India and Israel, mosques are not an issue in Spain--actually in Spain, the mosque business is booming:
The city of Barcelona, widely known as a European Mecca of anti-clerical postmodernism, has agreed to build an official mega-mosque with a capacity for thousands of Muslim worshipers. The new structure would rival the massive Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, currently the biggest mosque in Spain. An official in the office of the Mayor of Barcelona says the objective is to increase the visibility of Muslims in Spain, as well as to promote the "common values between Islam and Europe."

The Barcelona mosque project is just one of dozens of new mosques that are in various stages of construction across Spain. Overall, there are now thirteen mega-mosques in Spain, and more than 1000 smaller mosques and prayer centers scattered across the country, the majority of which are located in Catalonia in northeastern Spain.

The Muslim building spree reflects the rising influence of Islam in Spain, where the Muslim population has jumped to an estimated 1.5 million in 2010, up from just 100,000 in 1990, thanks to massive immigration. The construction of new mosques comes at a time when municipalities linked to the Socialist Party have closed dozens of Christian churches across Spain by way of new zoning laws that several courts have now ruled discriminatory and unconstitutional. It also comes at a time of growing anti-Semitism in Spain.
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