Archive for Spain

Amnesty International finds bias against European Muslims

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Anti-Muslim banners protesting against the establishment of a Muslim prayer room, in Catalonia, Spain

Anti-Muslim banners protesting against the establishment of a Muslim prayer room, in Catalonia, Spain

(h/t: mjasghar)

Amnesty International finds bias against European Muslims

(BBC via. Islamophobia Today)

European governments must do more to challenge the negative stereotypes and prejudices against Muslims fuelling discrimination especially in education and employment, a new report by Amnesty International reveals today.

“Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the headscarf. Men can be dismissed for wearing beards associated with Islam,” said Marco Perolini, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination.

“Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes.”

The report Choice and prejudice: discrimination against Muslims in Europe, exposes the impact of discrimination on the ground of religion or belief on Muslims in several aspects of their lives, including employment and education.

It focuses on Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland where Amnesty International has already raised issues such as restrictions on the establishment of places of worship and prohibitions on full-face veils. The report documents numerous individual cases of discrimination across the countries covered.

“Wearing religious and cultural symbols and dress is part of the right of freedom of expression. It is part of the right to freedom of religion or belief – and these rights must be enjoyed by all faiths equally.” said Marco Perolini.

“While everyone has the right to express their cultural, traditional or religious background by wearing a specific form of dress no one should be pressurized or coerced to do so.  General bans on particular forms of dress that violate the rights of those freely choosing to dress in a particular way are not the way to do this.”

The report highlights that legislation prohibiting discrimination in employment has not been appropriately implemented in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. Employers have been allowed to discriminate on the grounds that religious or cultural symbols will jar with clients or colleagues or that a clash exists with a company’s corporate image or its ‘neutrality’.

This is in direct conflict with European Union (EU) anti-discrimination legislation which allows variations of treatment in employment only if specifically required by the nature of the occupation.

“EU legislation prohibiting discrimination on the ground of religion or belief in the area of employment seems to be toothless across Europe, as we observe a higher rate of unemployment among Muslims, and especially Muslim women of foreign origin,” said Marco Perolini.

In the last decade, pupils have been forbidden to wear the headscarf or other religious and traditional dress at school in many countries including Spain, France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

“Any restriction on the wearing of religious and cultural symbols and dress in schools must be based on assessment of the needs in each individual case. General bans risk adversely Muslims girls’ access to education and violating their rights to freedom of expression and to manifest their beliefs.” Marco Perolini said.

The right to establish places of worship is a key component of the right to freedom of religion or belief which is being restricted in some European countries, despite state obligations to protect, respect and fulfil this right.

Since 2010, the Swiss Constitution has specifically targeted Muslims with the prohibition of the construction of minarets, embedding anti-Islam stereotypes and violating international obligations that Switzerland is bound to respect.

In Catalonia (Spain), Muslims have to pray in outdoor spaces because existing prayer rooms are too small to accommodate all the worshippers and requests to build mosques are being disputed as incompatible with the respect of Catalan traditions and culture. This goes against freedom of religion which includes the right to worship collectively in adequate places.

“There is a groundswell of opinion in many European countries that Islam is alright and Muslims are ok so long as they are not too visible. This attitude is generating human rights violations and needs to be challenged,” said Marco Perolini.

Did a Spanish Nun Steal Thousands of Newborns?

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on April 4, 2012 by loonwatch

Thousands of Spanish mothers have similar stories of stolen children. (AFP/Getty Images) (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Thousands of Spanish mothers have similar stories of stolen children. (AFP/Getty Images) (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Where is the outrage and outcry from the hate peddlers?

Thousands of newborns have allegedly been stolen from their parents by Sister Maria Gómez Valbuena, obstensibly for good, wholesome “Christian” motivations, making a pretty penny in the process.

Please see today’s article, as well: Islamophobia and Adoption.

Did a Spanish nun steal thousands of newborns?

BARCELONA, Spain — “Where is my baby?” Luisa Torres wondered after waking up from general anesthesia on March 31, 1982.

“Your baby is dead,” Sister Maria Gómez Valbuena told her as she lay in bed at the Santa Cristina Maternity Hospital in Madrid. “You gave birth to nothing,” the nun said.

It was a lie, with consequences that would span almost three decades.

Torres alleges that her daughter was stolen at birth by a mafia of nuns, doctors and other officials who sold children for profit.

Thousands of Spanish mothers recount similar stories. Enrique Vila, a Barcelona lawyer who specializes in adoptions, estimates there might be as many as 300,000 cases, about 15 percent of total adoptions that took place in Spain between 1960 and 1989.

Since GlobalPost first wrote about the spate of stolen babies last year, the number of cases being handled by Spanish prosecutors has jumped from 900 to 1,500.

A trickle of complaints began decades ago, but turned into a flood two years ago. But the nun, now in her 80s and known as Sister Maria, is the first to be indicted in the scandal since complaints began to pour in two years ago. Her trial begins today, April 3.

About one-quarter of the cases have been dismissed due to a lack of documents or other evidence, which is often hard to provide when decades-old birth certificates have been forged, or when the parents and children haven’t yet found each other.

Torres and her daughter are just one of a dozen who have, and it is their reunion that has led to the first indictment.

‘Like a horror film’

Like hundreds of mothers who believe their babies had been stolen at Santa Cristina Maternity Hospital, Torres met Sister Maria, a social worker, in her fifth month of pregnancy after seeing an ad in a magazine offering help for expectant mothers in need.

“It said she had access to nurseries and foster homes, and that she would take care of the children until we had enough resources to take care of them by ourselves,” Torres recalled. “I went to see her with my mom and she was very nice — we didn’t suspect anything.” She said she was given a “special card” to show at the hospital when going into labor.

But it became “like a horror film,” she added.

After first saying that the baby girl was dead, Sister Maria changed her story, Torres said. The nun admitted that the child was alive, and told the 24-year-old woman that she would give the child up for adoption to a French family. She implied that Torres, who had given birth out of wedlock, would be an unfit mother.

And she told Torres, who wanted to name her child Sheila, that such a name was not “Christian,” and that the baby girl would be called Maria, “after herself.”

Torres said she became increasingly hysterical, and began cursing at the nun. She climbed from her bed and stumbled to the neo-natal unit. There, one girl lay in an incubator with a name tag on her crib: Maria.

“You saw nothing,” the nun told her. Sister Maria dragged Torres back to her room and threw her onto her bed, Torres said. “I will report you to the authorities as an adulteress and you will go to jail. Then I will also take away your 2-year-old daughter,” said Sister Maria, according to Torres.

Torres says she was terrified. Inés, her first child, was the result of a failed marriage. Separated from her husband, she started a new relationship, but that man left her once she became pregnant. In a country that was still waking up from a 40-year dictatorship and was extremely socially conservative, Torres didn’t know that anti-adultery laws had already been repealed in 1978.

Her new child had been born slightly premature, at eight months, and had some health problems. The infant was taken to another floor to receive special care, and Torres wasn’t allowed to visit her because she had never been officially identified as the child’s mother. She lost track of her baby, and was too afraid to approach Sister Maria again.

A devastated Torres left the hospital nine days later “with empty arms,” and the pacifier and baby blanket she had bought for her baby Sheila. She kept them for almost three decades, never losing hope that she could one day give them to her.

Obsessed for three decades

Months before Torres’ daughter was born, Alejandro Alcalde and his wife learned they could not have children and began considering adoption. But the adoption process was difficult. They had almost lost hope until they were told by Madrid’s regional council, which handled adoptions, to contact a woman named Sister Maria.

The adoptive parents paid 200,000 pesetas for Maria Pilar — the equivalent of about $6,600 today. The nun told them it was for hospital costs and for the mother to stay at a home after the birth. They arranged everything at a public hospital, which was why Alejandro Alcalde says they were never suspicious.

Maria Pilar Alcalde, now 30, recounts how she had looked for her biological mother since she was 15 years old, when her adoptive parents divorced.

“I spent nights crying, looking at my adoption documents over and over, trying to see a way to find my mother,” said Maria Pilar, who says she had a very “lonely childhood.” She described her adoptive mother as “a very dry woman” and said that her adoptive relatives never made her part of the family.

“I always missed that love in families,” she said. “When I was a teenager, I used to wonder: ‘How will my real family be?’”

After her parents’ divorce, Maria Pilar lived with her adoptive father, who helped her hunt for her mother. He spent a fortune on detectives and lawyers. Seven years ago, they appeared together on El Diario TV talk show, where they told Maria Pilar’s story. But it resulted in no leads.

“If my father thought he had been involved in anything illegal, he would have never helped so much in my search,” Maria Pilar said. Her adoptive mother, with whom she has a distant relationship, never liked the fact that Maria Pilar wanted to look for her biological parents.

At the beginning of their search, Maria Pilar and her father even went to see Sister Maria, who had kept in touch with the adoptive parents over the years. “I swore to God in front of your mother that I would never reveal her identity,” she told Maria Pilar. “She was probably a drug addict or a prostitute, it would only hurt you to find her.”

Ten miles away, Torres mourned her little girl.

“I was obsessed for 30 years…I used to stare at babies on the street when [my daughter] would still have been a baby, at young couples when she was still a teenager…sadness was always with me, especially on her birthdays,” Torres recalls, shaken at the memories.

Afraid that her other daughter would be taken away from her, Torres didn’t do much for years. She also didn’t know where to begin looking. According to Spanish privacy laws, parents who give their children up for adoption don’t have the right to get information about their whereabouts or new identities.

A year-and-a-half ago, when other “stolen babies” cases started appearing in the media, Torres says her determination to find her missing child was renewed. Her oldest daughter, Inés, eventually told the story to Spanish daily El Mundo.

Soon after the story appeared, a journalist at Antena 3 recalled the appearance of Alejandro and Maria Pilar on El Diario show seven years before, and realized that Maria Pilar and Torres’ stories matched. She dug into the matter. Eventually, she managed to contact both parties.

An “unbelievable” moment

On June 30, 2011, Torres, 54, and Maria Pilar, were brought on El Diario TV show after having had their DNA tested. They had been at the studio the entire day prior to the appearance, being interviewed separately, never crossing paths. They sat tense on the set until the TV host read out the result of their DNA test results on air: It was a match.

As they threw themselves at each other, Torres repeatedly murmured through tears, “I love you, forgive me.” Her daughter, sobbing, replied: “I have nothing to forgive.”

Many months later, they recall that pivotal moment as if it were yesterday.

“I almost fainted, my legs buckled. …It was a very beautiful and happy day, but too intense,” Torres said.

“I just threw myself in her arms,” said Maria Pilar. “I still cannot believe it.”

Still, settling into the reunion has taken time.

“I look at my mother and at the physical warmth she has with my sisters, and I wish it could be the same [closeness and naturalness] with me,” said Maria Pilar, who says it is still “strange” for them to be around each other.

Even so, she says she now has a “mom,” two “wonderful” half-sisters, two nephews and “a loving grandmother” she is getting to know and love.

Day of reckoning

Hundreds of women have named Sister Maria as the woman involved in the theft of their babies. The nun dealt with about 3,000 adoptions per year between 1967 and 1983, says Guillermo Peñas, the lawyer who represents Torres and Maria Pilar as well as 50 other families as plaintiffs.

Her name was first linked to the theft of babies in 1982, when investigative magazine Interviú uncovered several cases at another clinic in Madrid where Sister Maria used to work. Authorities closed the clinic down, but no one was prosecuted then.

The reunion of Torres and Maria Pilar offers the first mother-and-child pair who can accuse an alleged abductor, and have made it possible to indict the nun. She is currently charged with illegal detention, fraudulently faking another’s pregnancy, forgery of public and private documents, threatening behavior and coercion, according to Peñas.

So far, Sister Maria hasn’t responded to the prosecutor’s charges in court. GlobalPost’s attempts to reach Sister Maria for a comment were unsuccessful.
The public prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case.

Torres and Maria Pilar will first appear in front of the judge on April 3.

“This is a very important step because it [is taking on the Church] – [Sister Maria] represents the Church, and that is sacred in Spain,” said Flor Diaz, one of the representatives of SOS Stolen Babies, a support organization that Torres also belongs to.

Both Maria Pilar and Torres say that no matter what happens in the courts, they will never be able to recover the 30 years they lost. “I want that nun to pay for all the pain she has caused,” said Torres.

But at her age, it is unlikely that Sister Maria will end up behind bars.

“There have to be many more people involved,” said Peñas. “It is a matter of common sense to realize that a social worker does not have enough legal authority to do whatever she wants — she had superiors and the hospital director had to authorize the adoptions in the end.”

“But Sister Maria is the only thread we have to untangle the tangled web,” he added.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s newly installed minister of justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, said last week that resolving these cases “will be a priority” for his department, although advocates in the case are skeptical.

“For the government, this is like holding a screaming child,” said Peñas. “If it is held that civil authorities were in the end responsible, the state will have to compensate [thousands of families], and these are not the best times for that.”

But most of these mothers and their children, like Maria Pilar and Torres, say they don’t want any money, just to find their loved ones and recover the lost time.

As they work on that, Maria Pilar keeps the still-new pacifier and the baby blanket on her bed. In the days that followed her first meeting with her mother, she says she would fall asleep “like a baby,” grabbing onto them.

While that phase has passed, Maria Pilar says she plans to get a tattoo with her mother’s name — her way to make sure that Torres is never far from her again.

Spanish girl thrown out of exam for wearing headscarf

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by loonwatch

(via. Islamophobia-Today)

Spanish girl thrown out of exam for wearing headscarf

A Spanish schoolgirl has been expelled from school during an exam after refusing to remove her Islamic headdress or hijab, school officials said.

“They told me to remove it… they humiliated me in front of my peers,” she told El Mundo newspaper.

The 14-year-old girl, who lives in Madrid, decided to wear hijab this summer.

Her parents became outraged by the expulsion and described it an “abuse,” reporting the case to judiciary officials.

This comes while there are no clear guidelines prohibiting the wearing of headscarves in state schools in Spain.

Muslims currently account for just over one million of Spain’s 46-million population.

Muslims in Spain have been witnessing a growing trend of Islamophobia as e hostility towards the expressions of Islamic symbols and practices grows in the European state.

The discriminatory policies on the rise in Spain clearly breach the country’s Law of Religious Freedom, as well as the International Human Rights law.
Original post: Spanish girl thrown out of exam for wearing headscarf

Spanish priest arrested with 21,000 images of child porn; what if he were Muslim?

Posted in Feature, Loon Pastors with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by loonwatch

Spain was largely free of the high-profile child sex abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in many European countries and the United States… until now. Even more men of the cloth are found to be involved in sexual child abuse. A Spanish Catholic priest was arrested with 21,000 images of child porn on computersin his church.

To be fair, it should be obvious that hoarding pornography of any sorts, especially children, is against the formal teachings of the Catholic Church. “If the accusation is true, this is something that hurts us deeply, that we sincerely regret and that we reject unreservedly,” the diocese said. Just because some criminals belong to a faith does not mean that faith endorses criminal behavior. Reasonably open-minded people can understand that.

But what if he were Muslim?

Expect no fairness from the anti-Muslim conflict-o-sphere. Child porn is a tenet of Islam, we’d be told. We’d see another repeat of the whole child bride fiasco, echoing again and again the tired “Muhammad is a pedophile” smear.

But was Muhammad’s marriage to the young but post-pubescent Aisha unusual for 7th century Arabia? Nope. As Colin Turner of the University of Durham Middle East Studies department points out:

A marriage between an older man and a young girl was customary among the Bedouins, as it still is in many societies across the world today. It was not unheard of in Muhammad’s time for boys and girls to be promised to each other in marriage almost as soon as they were born, particularly if the union was of direct political significance to the families concerned. However, such marriages were almost certainly not consummated until both parties had entered adulthood, which Arabs in the 7th century tended to reach at an earlier age than Westerners today. It is highly unlikely that Muhammad would not have taken Aisha into his bed until she was at least in her early  teens, which was wholly in keeping with the customs of the day, and in context not in the least improper.

[Turner, C. (2006). The messenger. Islam: the basics(pp. 34-35). London: Routledge.]

But wasn’t Muhammad some sexual pervert that couldn’t control his libido? False. As Aisha herself testified:

Narrated Aisha: “The Prophet used to kiss and embrace his wives while he was fasting, and he had more power to control his desires than any of you.”

[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3 Book 31 Number 149]

But wasn’t Muhammad a violent misogynist who beat women and children all day? Wrong again. As Aisha again testifies:

Narrated Aisha: “The Messenger of Allah never struck a servant or a woman.”

[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41 Number 4786]

عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، عَلَيْهَا السَّلاَمُ قَالَتْ مَا ضَرَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم خَادِمًا وَلاَ امْرَأَةً قَطُّ

Now, do these same anti-Muslim bloggers know (or care) that Christian sources record that Joseph married the Virgin Mary when he was 90 and she was 12? Probably not.

A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates…

[Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Joseph]

Will these same anti-Muslim keyboard warriors accuse Joseph of being a pedophile and Christianity of being a religion of pedophilia? Not likely. So what is at play here? As George Readings observed, “This attempt to aggressively apply a modern British definition of pedophilia to seventh century Arabia strikes me as a sign of severe anthropological illiteracy…”

Anthropological illiteracy indeed! But who has time for troublesome scientific principles and scholarly analysis if you rely on “closed information systems based on pretend information” and your anti-Muslim canards fit so neatly into your supremacist ideological view of the world?

Note: This article is part of our “What if they were Muslim?” series. In this series, we examine the double standards used by anti-Muslim activists when discussing religious extremism in Islam as compared to other religions. We reject using extremists of any religion to justify prejudice, stereotypes, and hostility towards all members of that religion. Period.

 

Catalonia: Veil Ban Motion Defeated

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by loonwatch

Veil Ban Motion Defeated (via. Islamophobia-Watch)

Catalonia’s parliament rejected Thursday a move to ban the wearing of the Islamic burqa in public places across the Spanish region after reversing an initial vote.

A resolution moved by conservatives and centre-right nationalists was passed, but opponents said there had been a technical error and some absentees at the moment of the vote.

After the session was suspended, the parliamentary speaker ordered the vote to be put again, prompting a walk-out by the motion’s supporters and a victory for its left-wing opponents.

The motion would have called on the government of the northeastern region to ban the Islamic women’s garment which conceals all but the eyes, in the street as well as in public buildings.

Right-wing deputy Rafael Lopez said it was a question of values, of voicing opposition to clothing which he said kept women in a “degrading prison.”

AFP, 1 July 2010

 

Spain: Lerida Bans the Face Veil

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on June 1, 2010 by loonwatch

I can foresee the day when every country in Europe imposes a ban on the face veil.

Lerida Bans Face Veil (via. Islamophobia-Watch)

The town council voted to prohibit the “use of the veil and other clothes and accessories which cover the face and prevent identification in buildings and installations of the town hall.”

The vote, by 23 to one with two abstentions, is the first of its kind in Spain, a country where Islamic veils and the body-covering burqas are little in evidence despite a large Muslim population.

The move is aimed at promoting “respect for the dignity of women and values of equality and tolerance,” the town hall said in a statement.

The Islamic veil has sparked intense debate in many European countries, with Belgian deputies last month backing a draft law banning the garment in all public places, including on the streets, in a first for Europe.

France’s cabinet has also approved a draft law to ban the full-face veil from public spaces, opening the way for the text to go before parliament in July.

The issue is a relatively new one for Spain, an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country which has seen the number of immigrants living within its borders soar from around half a million in 1996 to 5.6 million last year, out of a total population of 46 million people.

Moroccans make up one of the largest immigrant communities.