- November 2010 : Course on "Islam y principios democráticos"
Since 2009 the Department of Ecclesiastical Law (Departamento de derecho eclesiástico del Estado) at the National University for Distance Learning (Universidad nacional de educación a distancia), has, in conjunction with the Fondation Pluralismo y Convivencia, been running a course entitled "Islam and Democratic Principles".
Its objective is to "depict the status of Islam within open, diverse, democratic, Spanish society and set the social, political, legal and cultural context in which the Muslim faith, its members and spiritual leaders carry on their activities". Its objective is to "depict the status of Islam within open, diverse, democratic, Spanish society and set the social, political, legal and cultural context in which the Muslim faith, its members and spiritual leaders carry on their activities". This course is aimed, on the one hand, at ministers of the Muslim faith (sic), on the other, at all people or groups who wish to acquire more precise knowledge, whether intellectual or practical, in the field. The course is financed by the students’ tuition fees. The Foundation Pluralismo y Convivencia, in turn, provides scholarships covering course fees for imams and leaders of the Muslim communities who figure in the Registry of Religious Entities held at the Ministry of Justice (Registro de entidades religiosas del Ministerio de Justicia). In 2009, 42 people received a scholarship, in 2010, 65, spread over three locations (Madrid, Tarrasca and Valencia).
A second cycle entitled "Socio-legal aspects of Islam" began in November 2010.
- 13 June 2010 : Law on religious freedom
After several municipalities (Lleida, Tarragona, Barcelona...) banned the wearing of the niqab or the burqa in "municipal spaces", the debate has shifted to national level.
The town of Lleida was the first to restrict "use of the full veil or other clothing that covers the face completely and prevents identification and eye contact, in buildings, outbuildings and municipal facilities". These, said Mayor Àngel Ros, are spaces of convivencia and social dialogue, incompatible with the wearing of such clothing, which furthermore contradicts the principle of equality. He expressed his desire to deliver a clear message of commitment to gender equality, while reaffirming that integration entails respect for religions and cultural identities. The local government had taken the advice of its legal department on a possible blanket ban in any public place, but the latter said it lacked the jurisdiction to pronounce a blanket, indiscriminate ban on wearing the niqab or any items of clothing that prevented identification, as this was also part of exercising individual freedom.
The prospect of a debate on the future law on religious freedom - which is to replace the 1980 law on religious freedom - has provided several government members with an opportunity to mention the possibility, through this legislation, of national regulation, as requested by several municipalities.
The Justice Minister, Francisco Caamaño, has therefore announced that the future law, which is due to be discussed in the autumn, will address the issue of wearing visible signs of religious affiliation in public areas (espacios públicos). If, according to him, no action should be taken with regard to the hijab, three reasons prove however necessary, according to him, to legislate at national level on the wearing of the burqa : security ; preserving the dignity of women ; and preventing a repeat of the disorder generated by the specific measures adopted by various municipalities.
It should be noted, however, that this view is not shared by the entire government, with some considering that the current legislation is adequate to protect the dignity of women, while others fear that such measures will confine some women to their homes.
For further information, see the article in El Pais on drafting the new law on religious freedom.