Inside Muslim summer camp in southern Spain
August 18th, 2010
03:54 PM ET

Inside Muslim summer camp in southern Spain

CNN’s Atika Shubert filed this report from Spain:

Islam is often called the fastest growing religion in Europe, thanks to the tremendous growth in migration and a galloping birth rate in Muslim communities.

But Islam is not new to Europe. The religion has been a part of the European cultural fabric for hundreds of years.

You can see it in the majestic Islamic architecture that graces the landscape of southern Spain. It thrives in the Muslim majority nations of Bosnia and Albania. And, of course, there is Turkey, the bridge between Europe and the Middle East.

Then there are the growing Muslim communities that have come from abroad to settle in Europe: Pakistani and Bengali-run shops are commonplace on the streets of London; the many dialects of Arabic from Morocco to Somalia compete to be heard from Stockholm to Amsterdam.

It’s clear that a “European Islam” is emerging from the interaction of all these communities.

In Spain, “new Muslims”–converts to Islam–are clustered in the country's southern Andalusia region. They practice a more liberal interpretation of Sufi Islam that takes its inspiration from Spain’s Muslim history.

I got the chance to spend two nights at Al-Madrassa, an Islamic center founded by new Muslims in Andalusia's Alqueria de Rosales. Every year, the center host a two-week summer camp for kids of all faiths aged 8-16.

This year, the last two days of camp coincided with the beginning of Ramadan. For many of the younger children, it was an opportunity to try fasting for the first time.

We got up before sunrise for a bleary-eyed breakfast of honeyed doughnuts and coffee at the canteen and then quickly made our way to the mosque for prayer at dawn.

At prayer, I couldn’t help but notice how children here looked like any other streetwise kids you would see in Europe. One had a tilted baseball cap that he quickly removed; a set of flashy white headphones permanently hung from his neck. The girls chose to cover their heads with brightly coloured scarves inside the mosque, but fashionably wrapped the cloth around their shoulders when they left.

Their daily routine was much like any other camp, with a few modifications: Archery lessons mid-morning, Arabic class in the afternoon. Sometimes, they did ceramics learning how to make the famous Moorish tiles of Southern Spain. Other times, they headed outdoors for horse-riding, hiking or camping.

During Ramadan fasting, there was plenty of down time for kids, conserving their energy during the hottest time of the day.

The call to prayer sounded five times a day, but children were not required to be at every one. Non-Muslim children did not participate in the prayer, but sometimes lingered in the mosque to join their friends before and after.

The kitchen remained open for anyone who wanted to eat or drink during Ramadan fasting, including Muslim children. The idea was not to force anyone to participate in the fasting but to encourage spiritual reflection, even if only for a few hours.

“This place is about learning and understanding. Above all, this is the most important to us,” Abdussamad Antonio Romero the camp’s director told me.

He and his wife are Muslim converts and they founded Al-Madrasa 17 years ago. The idea was to create a haven for a uniquely Spanish view of Islam that follows a liberal Sufi ideology of Islamic learning and tolerance of other faiths.

Al-Madrasa now has visitors from all over Europe, but also the U.S. and Canada and has become a popular stop on Muslim tours of Spain. It has quietly become one example of this “European Islam” now being forged.

I’ll be doing several stories for CNN’s Muslim in 2010 series looking at how Islam in Europe is growing. And Al-Madrasa, it seems, is a fine place to start.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Europe • Islam • Muslim

soundoff (254 Responses)
  1. Eddie Fonseca

    When you listen to popular Spanish music artists from Ketama which is a popular Flamenco Spanish group their music is a mixture of Spanish and Middle East vibes, also lot's of Spanish music is from Turkey and Middle East because Spain was conquered by the Arabs over five hundred years ago. So the Spanish which were known as the Spanish Moors were mix of Muslim and Catholic, but they were a peaceful race so there is a lot of tolerance for Islam and Spanish Muslims in Spain. To say that the Spanish are not educated about Islam and Muslim Spanish is totally false. Being a European American who has traveled to Spain, and spend time with the Spanish people of Spain they are very open about their culture over some coffee in small café in Spain. As Americans we need to understand about other culture's because the world, is all about different races working in peace and harmony for a greater cause to improve the world's global economy. Without understand the Spanish Muslim culture in Spain, will we as citizen's of the world ever get to experience the true Spanish Muslim culture or will we have to read and listen to stereotypical viewpoints on their culture on television news stations for years to come.

    January 16, 2014 at 12:30 am |
  2. Avril Tapija

    Horse riding looks fun and enjoyable but it is a skillful job. For a smooth ride, both horse and the rider need to strike the right balance. It is important for a rider to follow a horse’s motion and stay in balance, if not you will end up gripping the horse with your thighs, clinging on to him by holding their calves etc. if this creates some unbalance in the horse’s motions, his ability to turn would get affected.,,".

    http://healthfitnessbook.comBye for now

    May 19, 2013 at 2:39 am |
  3. gay tours

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    August 4, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  4. CatholicMom

    Does the Islamic religion consider every person in the world a child of God?

    August 21, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • Javed

      Muslims typically do not refer to people as 'children of God' since that implies God 'the Father' and conflicts with the Muslim belief of a God who has no gender

      October 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  5. NM

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/if-it-is-extreme-it-is-not-islam/

    August 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  6. Just wander'in

    Eye for an Eye teachings...

    August 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  7. Just wander'in

    Do they teach how to behead people at that camp too?? or a more humane approach of Eye for an Eye.

    August 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  8. CatholicMom

    Google... laminin

    August 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  9. Reality


    The Jesus Se-minar and also Professor JD Cros-san after careful studies of all the appro-priate scriptural doc-uments concluded and voted that the following NT passages were not au-thentic Jesus but were, as is most of the NT, myths and embellishments added by the authors of the NT: Mark 8:31-33 and said equivalents.

    August 19, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  10. Rita

    Ahhhh, the real reason Michelle Obama took her kid to spain. She wants to make her muslim like her daddy!

    August 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  11. madmo


    A court in Saudi Arabia is seeking medical advice on whether it is possible to cut the spinal cord of a man as a punishment after he was indicted of causing paralysis to another man during a fight, a local daily reported on Thursday.


    Following is from Jihad Watch comments by Robert Spenser:
    It's in the Qur'an: "We ordained therein for them: 'Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.' But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers." – Qur'an 5:45

    August 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  12. madmo

    Ramadan 2010 Scorecard

    Day 8 In the name of The Religion of Peace In the name of All Religions
    Terror Attacks 37 0
    Dead Bodies 165 0
    for complete details try 'the religion of peace dot com'

    August 19, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      lets see, at this rate, it would take moslems 505478 days to kill as many people as Europeans did in world war two!

      August 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
    • Reality

      Osama, Osama, Osama,

      Infidels learn from history. Muslims do not as they continue on in the dark age mentality of one warmongering Arab named Mohammed

      August 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  13. lizzy2010

    "muslims should go back their countries??" uhh why dont the rest of us DO THE SAME THING helloo last time i checked ..this land belonged to native americans didn't WE all come in and claim this as "our land" so technically our ancestors came here from somewhere else ..maybe you should all check how your ancestors got here ..mine came on a plane how about yours

    August 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      its funny when white people say "go back to your country", the native indians said the same to the white people, but they did not listen. now they want us to follow advice they themselves did not!

      August 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  14. lizzy2010

    some people are just so stupid ..recommending websites like "what the west needs to know about islam" uh okay too bad they can't even spell QURAN right on this so called informational and educational website learn to spell words right first idiots before you go posting stuff ..and all this talk about muslims taking over the world ..let me give you a little insight ..you might be shocked to know ..that MUSLIMS DID NOT JUST COME TO THE UNITED STATES WHEN SEPTEMBER 11TH HAPPENED YOU IDIOTS. the religion of Islam has been around for centuries and ages since before math was even created ..people are so dumb thinking islam just came about in 2001, its been around wayy longer than you can imagine so all this "their trying to take over the world" ..uhh too bad they have been around since time began. god people need to check their facts before posting comments like idiots ..half of you probably don't even know the difference between the words muslim and islam

    August 19, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  15. Jack Spratt

    As a general rule I don't read this bile due to the overwhelming blithering idiocy of many of the posters, but today I can't help myself. To extract isolated quotes from the Quran as proof of Islam as a religion of violence (or anything else), is akin to claiming all proponents of the Bible are bloodthirsty varmints by pointing out the passages where Joshua and friends slaughter the men, women, children and livestock of village after village, reportedly by the command of God. Why adults with a third grade mentality insist on showing off their limitations is as sad as it is interesting. Believe it or not (you thirds graders out there), there are plenty of Muslims who know how to put the Holy Book in historical perspective. The beauty of Islam is that one can read/study/decipher the teachings of it without having some mullah 5,000 miles away dictating to you what you should believe. That is why there is an incredible diversity to Islam that incorporates regional culture into how it is practiced throughout the world. The Islam of West Africa is richly diverse, and much different than that practiced in Saudi Arabia, for instance. Likewise for the country with the highest percentage of Muslims in its population–Indonesia. Unfortunately, two things are clear from an understanding of American history: firstly, in general terms, many Americans are xenophobic and react violently to that which they do not understand, and secondly–there is much they do not understand. And, the unfortunate result, is that their third grade minds are easily manipulated to fit the aggressive agenda of their government.

    August 19, 2010 at 10:07 am |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      you are quoting the Old Testament, Jesus' Holy scripture when he was on earth. it does not apply to christians, they follow the New Testament which came after Jesus disappeared. The New Testament is a paragon of virtue and peace and love. Which is why you see love and peace all over christiandom.

      August 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  16. Ricky

    Let's all be pastafarians!

    August 19, 2010 at 9:18 am |
  17. Edd

    I find the quran very useful, you can always find a copy in my bathroom.

    August 19, 2010 at 7:13 am |
    • lizzy2010

      really Ed do you keep a copy of the Bible there too?

      August 19, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • Edd

      lizzy2010 only in case of emergency

      August 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  18. Vicente Ramirez

    Muhammad manipulated or fabricated so much in the Quran, and he was pedophile; and his followers still ABUSE little girls specially. Many million of muslims follow Islam because it lets them abuse women also.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:55 am |
    • lizzy2010

      hahahah thats funny because i'm pretty sure i hear on the news just about on a daily basis of christians doing the exact same thing! ..raping their family members, having children with their step daughters, having little girls locked up in basements, teachers sexually abusing their students in bathrooms ..yeah buddy its not just muslims its us too, we have the same problem in our religion

      August 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  19. Diana

    These seem to be good Muslims. I am of christian faith and have a Muslim best friend.
    We known that our belief in God is similar. And to read about this summer camp
    hopefully will change the view of some people who fear Muslims.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:53 am |
    • greentreexo

      i would hope so Diana, its good to hear some nice words amongst all these rude, idiotic, and senseless comments. I think all people should be treated equally, i could have sworn that is what our country taught us?? but of course media has their way of manipulating our minds ..half of these people that have posted comments have not had personal experiences with someone of the islamic faith ..they just have negativity towards them because of what they see or hear on the news.

      August 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  20. hannah

    many of you out there claim cnn is pushing Islam on you. I'm sorry but educating the vast public does not constitute an effort to convert you. I'm very sorry that many of you can't tell the difference.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:32 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.