Thursday, December 22, 2011

Radical Islamic Television Arrives in Spain

by Soeren Kern

Two radical Islamic television stations will begin 24-hour broadcasting to Spanish-speaking audiences in Spain and Latin America from new studios in Madrid.

The first channel, sponsored by the government of Iran, will focus on spreading Shiite Islam, the dominant religion in Iran. It began broadcasting on December 21.

The second channel, sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia, will focus on spreading Wahhabi Islam, the dominant religion in Saudi Arabia. It will begin broadcasting on January 1.

The inaugural broadcasts of Islamic television in Spain were deliberately timed to coincide with the Christmas holidays, and represent yet another example of the gradual encroachment of Islam in post-Christian Spain.

The new Iranian channel, Hispan TV, will focus on news and television series produced in Iran and dubbed into Spanish. The main program on the network will be a show called "Debate Abierto" (Open Debate), which the government of Iran views as a key tool for promoting Shia Islam in Spain and Latin America.

"This new television network in Spanish will play a crucial role in reflecting the ideological legitimation of our system in the world," according to Ezzatollah Zarghami, Director General of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the government-owned media corporation in charge of controlling Iranian national radio and television broadcasting.

The new Saudi channel, Córdoba Televisión, will broadcast documentaries and debates on religion with the aim of propagating the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam to audiences in the Spanish-speaking world. Wahhabism is a violent fundamentalist doctrine that not only rejects all other forms of Islam, but also seeks to challenge and destroy Judaism and Christianity.

Córdoba Televisión, based in the Madrid suburb of San Sebastian de los Reyes, is the brainchild of the radical Saudi cleric Abdul Aziz al-Fawzan, the spiritual mentor for one of the Islamists who carried out the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001.

Al-Fawzan, who has a reputation for preaching inflammatory sermons on Saudi television, is especially noted for his hatred of Christianity and his calls for the marginalization of women. He also preaches hate against the United States and Israel, and believes that "slavery is a part of Islam, slavery is a part of Jihad, and Jihad will remain as long as there is Islam."

The name Córdoba Televisión, which also plans to branch out into Spanish radio, is a masterpiece of Islamist propaganda. Córdoba is a city in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, once the capital of the Islamic Emirate of Al-Andalus, which ruled most of the Iberian Peninsula from 711 to 1492.

Many Muslims believe that the territories they lost during the Spanish Reconquista still belong to them, and that they have a right to return and establish their rule there – a belief based on the Islamic precept that territories once occupied by Muslims must forever remain under Muslim domination.

As a result, the name Córdoba continues to represent a potent symbol of Islamic conquest to many Muslims around the world.

Córdoba Televisión will not only provide Al-Fawzan with a new platform from which to spread Wahhabi doctrine to some 500 million potential viewers in the Spanish-speaking world, it also forms part of "an extremist Islamist offensive to recover Al-Andalus, the lost Muslim paradise that is being occupied by the Spanish," according to anti-terrorism experts interviewed by the Madrid-based newspaper ABC.

Spanish intelligence analysts are especially concerned that Córdoba Televisión will become a key Saudi tool for preaching Jihad in Spain and Latin America. They are also worried that by preaching radical Islam, al-Fawzan will destabilize the Muslim community in Spain.

They point to the long-standing rivalry between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Morocco for control over the estimated 1.5 million Muslims in Spain. Both governments have been accused to trying to establish a Muslim protectorate in Spain by vying for control over the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) and the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE), the two most important Islamic associations in Spain.

The broadcasting licenses for the two Islamist television channels, approved by the outgoing Socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, represent a significant advance for radical Islam in Spain.

During his seven-and-a-half years in office (his term ended on December 21, 2011, the same day the Iranian government began its broadcasting and proselytizing operations in Spain), Zapatero, a leftwing anti-clerical ideologue known for his deep-seated hatred of Christianity, pursued a close partnership with Islam aimed at displacing Judeo-Christian influences from Spain.

In an effort to transform Spain into a European mecca of postmodern multiculturalism, Zapatero opened the floodgates of Muslim immigration from North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Spain is now home to literally thousands of hardline Islamists who are permitted to preach their extremist ideologies with impunity in mosques and prayer centers around the country.

According to some estimates, more than 100 mosques in Spain have Wahhabi imams preaching to the faithful each Friday. These imams are preaching hatred for the West and the need to establish a parallel Muslim society in Spain. They teach that Islamic Sharia law is above Spanish civil law, and some have gone so far as to set up Sharia tribunals to judge the conduct of both practicing and non-practicing Muslims in Spain. Others have established religious police in Spanish towns and cities that harass and attack those who do not comply with Islamic law.

It remains unclear how the incoming Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy will deal with the problem of radical Islam in Spain. On the campaign trail, he signaled that he would take a harder line when he promised that, if elected, he would implement a burqa ban similar to the one in France.

The new government can also be expected to monitor closely the rhetoric aired by the two new Islamist television broadcasters. But beyond that, Spain already has been transformed by Islam to such an extent that any significant government pushback will encounter fierce resistance from the Islamists who believe history is on their side.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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