Muslim Women in Spain Denounce Stereotypes
Source: BBC News online, Monday, 4 March,
2002, 03:13 GMT
By the BBC's Flora Botsford in Cordoba, Spain
A world conference on women and Islam has ended in the Spanish
city of Cordoba with calls for western society to change its
negative image of the Muslim religion.
Delegates said that Islam's image had worsened since 11 September
and the US-led war on terrorism but that much of the criticism
stemmed from misconceptions.
Earlier, security guards removed a group of Muslim delegates
who gathered to pray in the city's former mosque - now a Catholic
The conference's final statement was a summary of all the
topics the speakers had touched on during two days of meetings
in Cordoba, the historic capital of the western Islamic empire.
More than 200 delegates heard that Muslim women faced many
difficulties, whether they were immigrants living in a western
society or recent converts, mainly because of a high level of
ignorance of Islamic customs.
The conference concluded that it was up to western societies
to change their views of Islam and to counteract negative images
of Islam in the media.
Delegates said they were tired of being portrayed as timid
They said the decision to wear a veil or headscarf was often
portrayed as their central preoccupation when in reality there
were many other subjects of concern to them.
There was strong condemnation of domestic violence and of
female genital mutilation and a call for women to fight discrimination
in work, pay, health and education, regardless of race or religion.
Controversy came when a group of about 20 delegates, men and
women, insisted on praying inside Cordoba's Great Mosque, which
was converted to a Catholic cathedral in the 13th century.
As they bowed to Mecca, security guards moved in to break
up the gathering, saying it was forbidden for Muslims to pray
within the property of the Catholic Church.
Worshippers said they wanted to reclaim a part of their history.
Muslims tried to pray at Cordoba's
Some said it had been 500 years since such an event had taken
place in the Cordoba mosque.
While that may not be true, it was clearly an emotional moment,
leaving some of the participants in tears.
Yusuf Fernandez, of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Groups,
said it was part of an ongoing campaign to change the status
of the former mosque.
Spain is coming to terms with the relatively new phenomenon
of large-scale Muslim immigration and many speakers in Cordoba
said it was all too common for Spaniards to confuse integration
with the need to adopt Spanish customs.
Spain has experienced a large-scale
immigration from North Africa