EVILLE, Spain - La Giralda, this city's grand tower, with its warm terra-cotta colors, delicate brick patterns and a height of almost 300 feet, was once called Spain's perfect minaret. Its twin stands in Marrakesh, Morocco, a reminder of the centuries-old ties between the two countries.
Seville's minaret has been the bell tower of the city's Roman Catholic cathedral for the past 500 years. Today, however, many of those who walk by it daily are again Moroccans, part of the growing number of Muslim immigrants to Spain. While they have not talked about reclaiming the minaret, they are seeking permission to build a large mosque here, as have Islamic immigrants have in six other Spanish cities.
At the moment, Seville's Muslims, many of them clandestine workers, meet in small buildings or discrete prayer rooms. But every demand for a proper house of worship awakens nervousness here.
Many Spaniards still view North African Arabs and Berbers - Spain's onetime rulers - with suspicion and disdain. Those feelings deepened after Moroccans emerged as the main suspects in the terrorist bombings of Madrid trains in March that killed 192 people.
In early October, the government created a foundation to help "minority religions" integrate into Spanish society. Seemingly modest, it is still a remarkable step for this nation once forged by religious wars against the Muslim rulers. Spain's Inquisition persecuted Muslims, Jews and Protestants alike to impose Catholic dominance.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon