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The Muslim Struggle for Civil Rights in Spain

Promoting Democracy through Migrant Engagement, 1985–2010

In the Series
Studies in Spanish History

Aitana Guia is Sessional Assistant Professor in Modern European History at York University, Toronto, Canada. She specializes in migration, minorities, and nationalism in 20th-century Europe. Her previous publications include Nadie es extranjero (2007) and La llengua negociada (2001).

In this history of Spain since 1975, with the collapse of dictatorship and transition to democracy, Aitana Guia demonstrates that a key factor left out of studies on the period — namely immigration and specifically Muslim immigration — has helped reinvigorate and strengthen the democratic process. Despite broad diversity and conflicting agendas, Muslim immigrants — often linking up with native converts to Islam —have mobilized as an effective force. They have challenged the long tradition of Maurophobia exemplified in such mainstream festivities as the Festivals of Moors and Christians; they have taken to task residents and officials who have stood in the way of efforts to construct mosques; and they have defied the members of their own community who have refused to accommodate the rights of women.

Beginning in Melilla, in Spanish-held North Africa, and expanding across Spain, the effect of this civil rights movement has been to fill gaps in legislation on immigration and religious pluralism and to set in motion a revision of prevailing interpretations of Spanish history and identity, ultimately forcing Spanish society to open up a space for all immigrants.

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-581-6
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: April 2014
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: No



The Migrant Experience and the Transition to Democracy in Spain
Democracy, Inclusion, and Citizenship
Repositioning Democratization in Spain
Islam and Democratization in Spain

Chapter 1
The Fight for Citizenship and Inclusion in a Borderland City: Melilla, 1985–1988

A Borderland City
The 1985 Immigration Act
Muslim Melillans
Muslim Women Activists
Spanish Nativism
In the Shadow of Morocco, but a Long Way from Spain
From Constitutional Patriotism to Sedition

Chapter 2
The Struggle for Voice, Status, and Rights in Mainland Spain, 1989–2005

Finding an Independent Voice
“I could only think about papers”
Racism and Migrant Rights
When “Exceptional” Becomes “Ordinary”
The World Upside Down
Twisting the Government’s Arm
Achievements and New Challenges

Chapter 3
Religious Pluralism, Secularism, and Women’s Rights, 1968–2010

From State Catholicism to Religious Pluralism
The Construction of Spanish Islam
“Worthless piece of paper”
Conflicts over Women’s Rights
The Public Practice of Islam in Spain

Chapter 4
Mosque Building, Catalan Nationalism, and Spain’s Politics of Belonging, 1990–2010

Mosque Building and Nativist Resistance in Spain
Barcelona and the Mosque that was Never Built
A Path towards Peace or “Ravalistan”?
Muslim Immigrants on Catalonia’s Nationalist Fault Lines
The Spectrum of Possibilities for Muslims in Catalonia
Osona: the Rise of the PxC and the Collapse of Convivencia

Chapter 5
Reclaiming Islamic Spain: from the Córdoba Mosque to the Festival of Moors and Christians, 1965–2010

Islam in Spain’s Memory Debates
The Córdoba Mosque-Cathedral and the limits of Convivencia
The Festival of Moors and Christians
Interpreting the Festival of Moors and Christians
The Festival of Moors and Christians in Democratic Times
“We are not fanatics”
Dynamics and Alternatives



The Muslim Struggle for Civil Rights in Spain is a pioneering study of Muslim immigration to Spain in the last quarter of the 20th century. It makes a compelling case for an original and provocative proposition: against the overwhelmingly dominant concern – and even hysteria – that the Muslim presence is leading to the destruction of ‘European’ values and identity, Aitana Guia argues that Muslim immigration, coinciding with the transition from the Franco dictatorship to a constitutional system, helped entrench Spanish democracy and pluralism by developing an immigrant rights movement and putting political and religious rights set out in the Constitution of 1978 to the test. This book should be read by anyone with an interest in one of contemporary Europe’s most pressing issues.
Adrian Shubert, author of A Social History of Modern Spain

Guia’s study provocatively turns on its head the widely-held opinion concerning Muslims in contemporary Spain that they are the mere beneficiaries of democracy (or, more sinisterly, stand in opposition to it). Instead, Guia argues that responses of Muslim residents to certain legal and cultural matters since the death of Francisco Franco have played a crucial role in transforming Spanish politics and society.
... Her publication will be of particular interest to scholars of immigration in Spain for its acknowledgement of the nation’s new ethnic minorities as willing agents of change rather than the passive objects to which they have often been reduced in what remains a nascent field.
... Of particular note is her shrewd engagement with questions of gender. By highlighting the
importance of female activism in Melilla and Barcelona, and exploring various responses to the issue of the veil, she challenges accusations that Islamic culture is inherently discriminatory in this respect.
Reviewed in The Journal of Contemporary European Studies by Stuart Green, University of Leeds

Focusing on Muslim immigrants, with their differences culturally, religiously, linguistically, and ethnically from native Spaniards, Guia argues that Muslim immigrants and converts — by fighting for religious and cultural rights, status and citizenship — have contributed to Spain’s transition to democracy in the post-Franco era. There are five chapters: the fight for citizenship and inclusion in a borderline city: Melilla, 1985–1988; the struggle for voice, status, and rights in mainland Spain, 1989–2005; religious pluralism, secularism, and women’s rights, 1968–2010; mosque building, Catalan nationalism, and Spain’s politics of belonging, 1990–2010; reclaiming Islamic Spain: from the Cordoba mosque to the Festival of Moors and Christians, 1965–2010.

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