Muslim Request to Pray in Cordoba Church Prompts Examination of Spanish Identity

May 26, 2004

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On May 26, 2004 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "Ever since Charles V erected an altar and choir stall in the middle of this city's Great Mosque five centuries ago - clearing out many of the mosque's emblematic red-and-white-striped arches in the process - Córdoba's Mezquita has symbolized Spain's divisive past. But now, Muslim immigrants and Spanish converts to Islam are requesting the right to pray inside what was once Europe's most spectacular mosque. That right was taken away during the Christian Reconquest in 1236. In March the Junta Islámica, a Spanish organization, asked the Vatican for permission for Muslims to worship in the Mezquita. The church's 8th-century Moorish heritage still recalls for Muslims a glorious history in the Iberian Peninsula. But the request has spurred questions over what Spain's religious and cultural underpinnings are and to whom its history belongs. It is part of a larger debate vexing Europe. Continued immigration has left many countries struggling not only to integrate new and diverse populations, but to redefine what it means to be European."