|Images of modern mosques in Spain, |
this first in Madrid, the next in Málaga and Ceuta.
Let's face it, Ramadan brings a certain unpredictability; because of the moon that causes it to shift in the calendar a few days each year, it is a somewhat misplaced regularity.
The viruses in the air and its restrictions make these festivities pass without enthusiasm. Silvio Rodríguez could be singing today, where do the birthdays that we don't celebrate go, do they ever become something again, do they go away, and where do they go, where do they go?
The pandemic invades us with its deluge of hard-to-categorise data, the daily reports, the satisfaction of having spent another week..., as if to think of the afterlife, but the religious reminders arrive here without asking permission.
What's new in Ramadan 2021? It is celebrated with thirteen months of pandemic behind us, without the fear in the body of 2020, but with restrictions and curfews that prevent the night meetings that characterise these dates. The Islamic authorities in Spain warn that "it is not advisable to perform the iftar in the mosque - the breaking of the fast at nightfall, the breakfast we could call -, in order to avoid crowds and risks of contagion, must at all times keep interpersonal distances and the correct use of masks, without delaying in time".
First of all, the data. According to the demographic study of the Muslim population, the latest published at the end of 2019, prepared by the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain -UCIDE-, 2,100,000 Muslims live in our country, with a greater presence in Catalonia (560,000), Andalusia (340,000), Madrid (300,000) and Valencia (220,000).
In these data there are children and surely they include agnostics and atheists, it is an approximation that uses nationalities and generalisations, because there is no denominational census in Spain, nor any other study more reliable than this one.
Recently, the first nationality of Muslims in Spain is... Spanish (880,000 people), followed by Moroccan (810,000) and, at a distance, citizens from Pakistan (90,000), Senegal (70,000) and Algeria (60,000).
Among the Spanish Muslims, let us say that 350,000 are naturalised, some 70,000 are from Ceuta or Melilla and half a million are minors.
There are 80 Islamic religion teachers in Spain (the Bishops' Conference estimates that there are 34,000 Catholic religion teachers in the country).
Ramadan 2020 began with the death from the pandemic of Riay Tatari, president of the Islamic Commission of Spain for several decades, a respected person and a regular interlocutor of the administration. It turns out that his successor, Aymán Abdli, was arrested last March and released after making a statement. He is under investigation for his involvement in a network of financing jihadist organisations, for sending money to Syria for this purpose.
The event, which the victim denies and in any case dissociates himself from his role as a representative, brings confusion to the representation of Islam in Spain, traditionally divided between UCIDE and the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI), the two large organisations united in the Islamic Commission of Spain; It also comes down to linking Islam to terrorism, a mantra that clearly seemed to be on the wane as the cause of all our fears after having triumphed since the beginning of the century, recently replaced by cyber-panic.
Another question worth exploring is whether these organisations faithfully represent Hispanic Muslims and whether the administration has other ways to reach out to certain groups regardless of their faith, thinking of the immigrant population.
Moving to a more festive environment, we find the chapter on congratulations. In addition to the traditional informative report on Ramadan by Televisión Española from Morocco, and not from closer up, Atlético de Madrid FC deserves its appearance in this section, which this year congratulated Muslims from Twitter in English and Arabic, following the false belief that Islam is something foreign to Spain and ignoring the two million people who could fill the Wanda Metropolitano one Sunday after another.
Real Madrid congratulated Muslims from Saudi Arabia on Ramadan in 2017 with part of the squad, a suggestion from the sponsor that had to change this season.
The sports press is no stranger to dealing with this issue, the same newspaper As published an article this month on the Real Madrid-Liverpool match and the circumstances of Benzema and Salah, always coming to the conclusion that elite sport is not affected by these things for obvious reasons.
Leaving football, institutional congratulations to Muslims are something usual in other latitudes, here they are rare and, therefore, we have to acknowledge it to the military commander of Ceuta, general Alejandro Escámez, who taking advantage of the pages of the newspaper El Faro shared on April 12th that, despite the COVID, "it is still a very special date for the Muslim community, for the military of the garrison that profess this religion, and for all the people of Ceuta that live together in this beautiful city. However, it will be a celebration in which patience, recollection and individual prayer, help for those in need and hope will take on a greater meaning because of this particular situation".
General Escámez took the opportunity "to wish, on behalf of all the members of the General Command, the whole family that makes up the Muslim community of Ceuta, a happy and fervent Ramadan with a happy Aíd al Fitr, bringing peace and joy to their homes and the hope that soon we will see the end of this pandemic and with it the fullness of this celebration will be recovered. Ramadan mubarak". The general knows that there are Spanish soldiers of the Muslim faith in some units, and that it is perfectly compatible to be a Muslim, a soldier in the Spanish army, and to be moved to the point of having a lump in the throat and feeling the Christ of the Good Death of Málaga as his own.
The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has left the way in which religiosity evolves in Spain somewhat open to question, the clear trend of a decrease in religious practice (Catholic marriages, for example) compatible with the boom in participation in its festive expression as a symptom of cultural identity, as it happens with the Holy Week processions. Organised confessions without social rites - limited in times of pandemic - lose much of their meaning, and it is suspected that many participants in religious celebrations do so for reasons other than faith.
In view of the somewhat sterile controversy over whether organised religion favours or penalises individual freedoms, let us say that the Spanish legal framework does not facilitate the social imposition of more or less justified restrictions on religious grounds.
It is different to be a Muslim in Spain or in a mainly Islamic country, the religious offer in Spain is wide, the social pressure is lower, the identity of citizens is diverse and can even change over time, not of confession, but of alternating processions with football matches, political vindication or social or cultural practice.
Silvio Rodríguez used to say: "Where does the common, the everyday go? The barefoot at the door, the friendly hand? Where does the almost daily surprise of the sunset go? Where does the tablecloth on the table, yesterday's coffee?
For two million of our fellow citizens during these days, Ramadan is part of the small and in some cases the large, amidst the disinterest of society and its spokespersons.
Finally, a non-religious reference: the recent birth of the digital newspaper Baynaná (meaning 'between us'), "a bilingual online medium - in Arabic and Spanish - that is committed to social journalism and public service. Our magazine - they define themselves - aims to offer useful information to the Arabic-speaking community in Spain and, at the same time, to build bridges between migrants, refugees and Spanish people of foreign origin and the rest of society".
An example of a rare cultural initiative by the Arab immigrant community in Spain. Religions at their best are culture; and there is also a lot of non-religious culture.
All bridges are welcome.
Original text in Spanish. Translation is courtesy of Atalayar magazine, a journalistic bridge between shores and cultures where this article was also published.
Related in Atalayar
- Ramadan in Spain: the balance between religious freedom and restrictions (13.4.2021).
- The month of Ramadan and its celebration during the pandemic (12.4.2021).