SPAIN: Muslims outraged that their former era of domination is being written out of Cordoba history

This should put an end to Muslim covert attempts to re-conquer the Spanish Cathedral at Cordoba and convert it back into a mosque.

ALL had been relatively quiet at the Córdoba Cathedral for more than 750 years, until 2004, when Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden began encouraging Muslims to “reconquer” Spain for Islam by declaring it to be “the lost Al-Andalus.” Many Muslims believe that much of Spain still belongs to them, and that they have a right to return and establish their rule there.


World Crunch  In 1984, UNESCO included Spain’s Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba on its World Heritage list. Thirty years later, the site that tourist guides describe as one of Andalusia’s architectural masterpieces — a symbol of the golden age of the Umayyad civilization and of the “concord” between religions — now represents conflict. Though the exceptional monument, also called the Mezquita, remains, the diocese in charge of it has dropped the “Mosque” part of its name, calling it simply a “Cathedral,” which has angered many.


A group of citizens sparked an intense controversy in February after they denounced “the ongoing attempts of legal, economic and symbolic appropriation from the bishop of Cordoba.” Over 200,000 people have already signed their petition on, asking that the site be called “Mosque-Cathedral” and not just “Cathedral.” They are also demanding “the legal recognition of its status as public property.” 

The public has discovered how the diocese of Cordoba has tried to erase the monument’s Muslim history and establish its authority over the site. In 2006, it covertly registered the monument in its name. “If the administration doesn’t oppose it, it will become the Church’s property in 2016,” explains Antonio Manuel Rodriguez, law professor at the University of Cordoba and spokesman for the outraged citizen group. “But our main concern is the escalation of the denominational management of the site,” he adds.


A diocese leaflet printed in 2009 described the mosque as an “islamic intervention” after the destruction of a Visigothic church during the 6th century — St Vincent’s basilica — by “Muslim dominants.” The magnificent forest of columns, famous around the world, is mentioned only once and as an “inconvenience” to “celebrate liturgy.” The leaflet, however, insists on the “Christian transformation,” which destroyed the center of the mosque to build the heart of the cathedral, the artistic interest of which is minor.

“It’s unbelievable,” says historian Bernard Vincent, who is dumbfounded after reading the leaflet. “The mosque is presented as no more than a blip in an otherwise entirely Christian site that dates almost as far back as Ancient Rome. It’s as if Muslims had done nothing more than simply patching up something that already existed. Those aren’t mistakes but rather interpretations which are evidence of a campaign to claim total control over the Mosque-Cathedral,” he explains.

That was then, the Cathedral is now
That was then, the Cathedral is now

The diocese believes that the Mosque-Cathedral has been its property since 1236 and the Reconquista led by Ferdinand the Third of Castile, at which point the site was dedicated to Catholic cult. “Until 1998, the Church was not allowed to register its property,” says diocese spokesman Pablo Garzon. When a new law changed that, it was registered, he says. “The difference here is that temple is very controversial.”

The young priest describes the fact that “Muslims have tried to pray” there. But for the Church, letting people kneel in front of the magnificent apse covered in golden mosaics is simply out of the question. The security guards are quick to stop those who try.

In 2006, the former president of Cordoba’s Muslim community, Mandur Escudero, sent a letter to the Pope asking that Muslims be permitted to pray there. To demonstrate to the world that it was impossible for him to do so, he then prayed outside the Mezquita in the middle of the street.

Muslims praying in the streets of Spain
Muslims praying in the streets of Spain

An altercation broke out when eight members of a group of 118 Muslim tourists from Austria unrolled their prayer rugs inside the church, kneeled on the floor and began praying loudly. When security guards ordered them to stop, the Muslims responded by attacking them. After a dozen police reinforcements were called into the church to arrest the Muslim offenders, they, too, were attacked. Two security guards were injured in the melee, which police said was planned in advance.

Soon after, the new and very conservative Bishop Demetrio Fernandez asked city officials to change the road signs to the monument, replacing the name “Mosque-Cathedral” with just “Cathedral.” This “pressure” from the Muslim community has become the perfect excuse for the symbolic disappearance of Cordoba’s mosque.

Get out and stay out, Muslims
MUSLIMS: Get out and stay out!