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Anti-Islam hate crimes surge in Spain

World News
Wed, 13 Apr 2016
AFP


Anti-Islam hate crimes jumped more than tenfold in Spain in 2015, a key Islamic federation said Tuesday following a series of attacks on mosques.

A total of 534 anti-Islam incidents including online abuse were recorded last year, up from 48 in 2014, the president of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities, Mounir Benjelloun said.

"These types of aggressions increase whenever there is an act of violence in a European country" carried out by Islamic extremists, he added.

He cited as examples the attack in January 2015 against satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, police and a kosher supermarket in Paris that killed 17 people and the simultaneous assault on restaurants, a concert hall and football stadium in the French capital in November 2015 that left 130 dead.

Spanish police said Tuesday they had identified 14 people linked to far-right groups who took part in a protest outside of Madrid's main mosque after last month's deadly Brussels airport and metro attacks.

The protesters gathered at the Omar mosque in Madrid and placed a large placard that read: "Today Brussels, tomorrow Madrid?".

Police said prosecutors were investigating to determine if the 14 could be charged with hate crimes.

The Union of Islamic Communities of Spain issued a statement at the time saying "extremist groups" were determined to "manipulate public opinion by trying to group together and channel hate towards Muslims."

Also on Tuesday, police in Parla, a southern Madrid suburb, said they had arrested a man linked to the far-right on suspicion of throwing red paint on the entrance of a mosque and painting swastikas on its door.

Since the Brussels attacks mosques have been vandalised in other Spanish cities such as Salamanca in the west and Granada in the south, said Riay Tatary, head of the Islamic Commission of Spain, which represents the country's 1.89m Muslims.

Spain's interior ministry recorded 70 hate crimes linked to religious belief last year, up from 63 in 2014.

Benjelloun said the ministry's figure was lower because in many cases victims are often reluctant to file complaints with police and some police stations label attacks on Muslim property as vandalism instead of as a hate crime.

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