Spain to monitor mosques

The Spanish government is considering monitoring mosques and imams to curb Islamic extremism blamed for the March 11 terror bombings in Madrid, the foreign minister said Monday.

Islam / Islamism

Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists (e.g. the Taliban, Wahhabis, Hamas and Osama bin Laden). It is considered to be a distortion of Islam. Many Islamists engage in terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

Adherents of Islam are called “Muslims.” The term “Arab” describes an ethnic or cultural identity. Not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. The terms are not interchangeable.

“I think it is important to know what is being preached on Fridays in the various religious forums that have been growing in Spain in a totally uncontrolled fashion,” Miguel Angel Moratinos told the Telecinco television network, referring to prayers on the Muslim holy day.

He said that, as Spain’s North African immigrant community has expanded in recent years, mosques have arisen in everything from workshops to offices.

Spain has a Muslim community of about 500,000 people out of a total population of 42 million. Moroccans make up the second largest immigrant group, with about 380,000 members.

Fourteen of the 18 people charged in the Madrid bombing are Moroccans.

The judge leading the investigation into the bombings, which killed 191 people, has said the alleged instigator of the attack, a Tunisian named Serhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, preached holy war among Muslims in Madrid.

Moratinos spoke a day after Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso said in a newspaper interview that he is considering drafting a bill to monitor imams, or Moslem clerics, as well as clergy of other faiths.

“We cannot name the imam who is going to preside over a religious service, but we can require of the imam or preacher of any religion that it be known who he is and what he is going to say in the mosque or the church,” Alonso told El Pais.

He said such a law would not violate constitutional guarantees of free speech.

“We are talking about a phenomenon that can create a breeding ground for terrorism that kills people,” Alonso said. “Anybody can say anything they want. But the state has the right to know what is being said when that activity is public and can create this kind of scenario.”

Opposition parties criticized the idea of a registry of religious activities.

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