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Spain: Jihadists Threaten Catalonia over Burqa Ban

by Soeren Kern

A jihadist group affiliated with Al Qaeda has threatened to carry out terrorist attacks in Catalonia, an autonomous region in northeastern Spain that is home to the largest concentration of radical Islamists in Europe.

The threats were issued by a group called “Africamuslima” in response to efforts by Catalonian lawmakers to increase surveillance of radical Salafists seeking to impose Islamic Sharia law in Spain and other parts of Europe.

Catalonia — a region of 7.5 million people centered on the Mediterranean city of Barcelona — is home to the largest Muslim population in Spain. Most of the estimated 450,000 Muslims in Catalonia are from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

Many of the Muslims living in Catalonia are shiftless single males who are unemployed and “susceptible to jihadist recruitment,” according to diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks and published by the Madrid-basedEl País newspaper.

Spanish authorities are especially concerned about the threat posed by Salafism, a radical strain of Islam that seeks to re-establish an Islamic empire [Caliphate] across the Middle East, North Africa and Spain, which Salafists view as a Muslim state that must be reconquered for Islam.

Spain’s National Intelligence Center [CNI] says Catalonia is home to hundreds and possibly thousands of Salafists who, according to intelligence experts, pose the greatest threat to Spain’s national security.

Catalan officials recently have redoubled efforts to improve surveillance of Salafist groups in the region.

On August 27, it emerged that Catalan police (known locally as the Mossos d’Esquadra) have been conducting a “census” to identify and register Muslim women who wear Islamic body-covering burqas and face-covering niqabs.

According to local media reports, the Catalan Interior Minister, Ramon Espadaler — based on the belief that these garments may constitute an indicator of the spread of Salafism in Catalonia — has ordered members of the Mossos to file a report every time they see a burqa or niqab.

Espadaler said the effort involves creating a “list of indicators that could point us to radicalization processes.” He warned that there is a “target risk” of radicalization in Muslim areas in Catalonia, and made it clear that the collection of data on burqas and niqabs is part of the requirement that the Mossos “remain vigilant.”

Catalan government spokesman Francesc Homs defended the move; he said that police have an obligation to “know what is going on.”

On July 18, the Catalan Parliament approved a draft law that would ban the wearing of face-coverings such as the Muslim burqa or niqab in all public spaces. The proposed ban is set to become an integral part of a new Law on Pubic Spaces that will be presented to the Parliament in early 2014.


Women wear the niqab face covering under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. The French government has banned the wearing of the face-covering burqa and niqab in public.


In an effort to avoid being accused of singling out Muslims, the Catalan Interior Ministry has sought to frame the proposed burqa ban within the context of public safety. As a result, it has extended the proposed ban to prohibit the wearing of all forms of face coverings, including masks and motorcycle helmets, within public buildings….


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