Cordoba (AsiaNews/IslamOnline) "We don't need to ask for the Vatican's intercession (to pray in Cordoba Cathedral) since it is a historical site," Munir Al-Musiri of The Islamic Cultural Center of Madrid (ICCM) told IslamOnline. "This is nonsense, I myself have prayed there many times." Some Muslims deny that they have need to seek permission from Rome to worship in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Cordoba, the city which had been the heart of Moorish Spain in the eighth century, the church which once had been one of Islam's holiest mosques.
On April 19th the Islamic Council of Spain lodged a formal request with the Vatican to allow Muslims to pray in the former mosque. "The request was very well received," Mansur Excudero, the Secretary of the Council had stated.
Zakarias Maza, director of the Taqwa mosque in nearby Granada expressed, "We hope the Vatican will give a sign that it has a vision of openness and dialogue Cordoba has been a symbol of the union of three cultures for centuries. Even now, Jews and Muslims live together with Christians in the neighborhood around the mosque."
Local politicians also backed the move. Antonio Hurtado, a spokesman for the local Socialist party told El Mundo, "We hope to see Cordoba become a place for the meeting of the faiths."
Yet Musiri stated he had no idea a national Islamic group besides the ICCM existed in Spain. He believes the request was brought forward by individuals who "were in no position to speak for the entire Muslim community in Spain." Fearing that this type of individual initiative would spark a certain "Islamophobia" during today's sensitive times, Musiri cautioned, "It will play well in the hand of some people and western media, which could add fuel to the fire and say Muslims want to re-conquer Al-Andalus (Spain)."
Some of Spain's Catholic's have been angered by the proposal that Muslims share their worship space. "Will Christians be able to pray in the mosques of Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Kuwait?" one Catholic demanded on a religious website.
A member of the Islamic Council of Spain, Isabel Romero, stated her perspective of the motion. "In no way is this request about reclaiming our right, far less about any kind of re-conquest," she told a local newspaper. "Instead, we want to give our support to the universal character of this building."
The Cathedral stands at the heart of a UNESCO heritage world site.
On March 3rd, however, a different picture was painted, when as Sunday Mass barely concluded, participants of the Third International Congress of Moslem Woman attempted to perform a communal prayer before the mihrab, challenging staff that tried to impede the forbidden act of worship, actions that would most likely bring the death of any Christian attempting the same in a mosque in a Muslim country.
Recently, a prominent Spanish Muslim, Abderrahman Muhammad Manan, wrote that the ancient mosque should be freed and that, "We Moslems cannot stand behind, saying that Islam is not stones or monuments. To do so is to not give account of what things are in their essences, and in its essence Alhama is Islam in our land, as is Al-Andalus, Andalucia; it is the remembrance of a colonization, of a genocide, of an expulsion." Alhama and Andalucia are areas in Spain with much Islamic history.
Bishop of Cordoba, Msgr. Juan Jose Asenjo, has made no official response to the request but affirmed that the diocese "must be very prudent" in responding to the petition of the Islamic Council.