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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 July, 2003, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
Mosque signals Muslims' return to Spain
Planners were forced to rethink the height of the minaret
It is more than 500 years since the Spanish reconquered the Iberian peninsula, killing or expelling every confessed Muslim who could be found and conclusively ending 800 years of Islamic rule.

But on Thursday, a muezzin is calling Spanish Muslims to prayer at the first mosque to be opened in Granada since the reconquista, the culmination of a 22-year-old project that has been plagued by controversy.

For those who built the Great Mosque of Granada, which looks out onto the once highly symbolic Alhambra Palace, its inauguration - attended by a string of Muslim and non-Muslim dignitaries - heralds a new dawn for the faith in Europe.

"The mosque is a symbol of a return to Islam among the Spanish people and among indigenous Europeans that will break with the malicious concept of Islam as a foreign and immigrant religion in Europe," says Abdel Haqq Salaberria, a spokesman for the mosque and convert to Islam.

"It will act as a focal point for the Islamic revival in Europe."

It is precisely this which has caused some discomfort among the local population, but it appears that the mosque's insistence on harmonious co-existence has gone some way towards calming fears.

Cultural contribution

At a time when the Islamic faith is viewed with some suspicion within Europe, Spanish Muslims are hoping to remind the continent of the vast cultural and intellectual contribution made by the Moors, to art and architecture, astronomy, music, medicine, science, and learning.

It will act as a focal point for the Islamic revival in Europe
Abdel Haqq Salaberria

Their rule is also seen by some historians as an example of religious tolerance in medieval Europe.

The Moorish period in southern Spain saw Muslims and Jews living side-by-side. The city of Cordoba became a cultural centre for both faiths, while universities sprang up in cities across Andalucia. Trade and industry also flourished.

The new mosque intends to offer a series of courses on subjects such as education, law and medicine, as well as Arabic language classes, and is planning on issuing its own degree in science to European Muslims.

The mosque and its extensive gardens will also be open to the public.

It will serve as a spiritual home to 500 Spanish Muslims, the majority of whom have converted to the faith in the course of the last 30 years.


It has taken a long time to get this far.

The land on which the mosque has been built was bought 22 years ago, but city authorities continually objected to the planning proposals.

Mosque in construction
The project has taken 22 years to see through
When it was finally accepted that the land could be used for religious purposes, objections were raised to the layout of the building.

Planners had to rethink the height and design of the building's minaret.

But opposition to the scheme, which received financial backing from Libya, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco, gradually subsided.

The mayor, a member of Spain's ruling right-wing party, will attend Thursday's inauguration.

The king of Spain was also offered an invitation.

But "prior engagements" meant he was unable to accept.

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