Spain’s Muslim Soldiers “With Double Loyalties” Spark Debate

February 3, 2007

Source: New Europe

Muslim soldiers serving in the Spanish army in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are sparking controversy among security experts. Some doubt their loyalty to Spain and fear they could side with neighbouring Morocco in case of a conflict between the two countries.

Located on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast, Ceuta and Melilla have belonged to Spain for centuries, but Rabat continues to claim sovereignty over them. About a third of the enclaves’ population of some 70,000 each is estimated to be Muslim, a proportion corresponding to their number among the total 8,000 soldiers stationed in the two strategically important military outposts.

Officially, Ceuta and Melilla are presented as models of a harmonious coexistence between Catholics, Muslims and the smaller Jewish and Hindu communities, but the reality is less rosy.

If a conflict erupted with Morocco over sovereignty or some other issue, “I’m not certain the Muslim soldiers would obey me,” one commander said.