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)

    You guys are all goofy. Till we outl;aw all religion we will be stuck in the dark ages

    August 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  2. Sammy

    "NO WAY, NO HOW, NO MASQUE at Ground Zero"

    August 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  3. sameeker

    Why dint you muzzies donate $100 million to your people in Pakistan instead of building a victory moaque near groung zero. We all see the true color of islam.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      muzzies dont have 100 million, they used it up to buy your weapon systems so that they can defend themselves against the weapon systems you sold to their neighbors.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  4. Diane

    EXCELLENT REPLY FROM GEORGE: (as reposted below)


    @Kristen, I am glad you are taking interest in commenting, but your information is inaccurate. The prophet was not a sinner or a sinner of worst-kind. In fact, Islamic teaching, unlike christian teaching states that all prophets were noble with impeccable characters, and this is the reason why God choose them for there task. God did not choose sinners or people with bad character to send his message and nor does it make sense for God to do that. Prophets were role models for humanity to follow and learn from. The Quran is filled with versus that state "There is no compulsion in religion" and christian and jews are given a special place in the Quran as "people of the book". Furthermore, Islam allows for other religions and beliefs of people to exist in Muslim land as well as under Muslim Rule. If anyone studied Islamic history, they would only come to conclude that Islam is far more tolerant than christianity or other religions when accepting other religions. To this day, there are jews, christians, and other people of faith living in Muslim countries all over the middle east. They have been there for centuries and they were even allowed to practice there own family law, as Islam and Muslims were sensitive to there religion. Find me one western country in Europe and the US, that allows Muslims to practice there own family law?..

    August 18, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
    • WiDawg

      "Islam ALLOWS for other religions and beliefs of people to exist in Muslim land as well as under Muslim Rule..." Here's the rub that Muslims keep glossing over - it's up to them to decide whether or not other religions and beliefs can exist??? Islamists want to be able to decide to ALLOW (or not) for the whole world.

      Find me one western country in Europe and the US, that allows Muslims to practice there own family law?.. England, for one, they now have Sharia courts. Islamists in this country (including the 9/11 Victory Mosque imam) want to eventually force the US to allow Sharia courts in this country - they don't think they should have to follow the same civil laws the rest of us have to follow.

      August 18, 2010 at 6:59 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      I would argue that Islam is LESS tolerant of other religions in its midst. However, Muslims are LESS likely to go nutto and gas a whole bunch of other religionists to death. The West is more tolerant of other religions, but it also has less moral scruples about abusing a religious minority if it means economic or political gain in times of hardship. Muslims are more likely to show restraint against other religions as a collective community during times of hardship.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:57 am |
  5. Sammy

    Mohammed knew that sex would sell very well among the group of his lecherous followers who were motivated to fight battles by the promise of sex slaves and wine. Once the followers got to heaven, they could pleasure themselves with endless sexual encounters with ‘Houris’ (beautiful young virgins)… 72 virgins girls and 28 young pre-pubescent boys. Mohammed goes one step further and expands the promise of virgins to include a free sex market where there is no limit of the number of sexual partners.....90% young Muslim man (or woman) strap a high explosive vest on his chest and blow himself to smithereens.95% Muslim belives in Jihad, 95% Muslims belives fighting for there religion not for the HOME LAND,85% Child abuses in Muslim families/muslim world. List goes on, and on, and ON..!!!

    August 18, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  6. Saladin

    The world is fascinated with Islam guys stop screaming and shouting just read the Quran in English then post your judgements hear as to what you think about Islam, I am sure your minds will change after that !!!

    August 18, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  7. israel owns palestine

    i hope the jews crush the arabs

    August 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  8. aaron

    ahahaahahahaha spain got owned by the muslims now they got quran camps that is so classic.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
  9. orthodox

    Hers 1 4 ure thinking Caps. Tell me, were in the Quran is there a statement of fact that the whole world is forced to recognize?
    U guys and gals go head to head on thin 1. Give me your reply and I'll be back w/ my rebuttal.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  10. Steve

    I wish more people would try atheism, there would be a lot less to bicker over.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
    • orthodox

      What will u tell your children at the end of your life?
      What hope do u have?

      August 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      yeah, maybe they can become nazis instead of crusaders. great improvement!

      August 19, 2010 at 2:50 am |
  11. Muhammed sucks

    Muhammed...thats the guy in the bear suit right ?

    August 18, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
    • muhammed sucks big time

      ahahahahahahaahahahahah muhamed in a bear suit .. so classic.

      August 18, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  12. Loren

    And I hope the author knows how Islam took hold the first time in southern Spain - at the end of a sword. What worries me is the naivete to believe that there can be a "European Islam" because as eveyone knows, a large numbers of the Islamic terrorists went to mosques throughout Europe.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • Amelia

      How about we talk about how Christianity came to so many countries? How about what Christian missonaries are doing in countries where people are so poor and aching for kindess they'll do whatever any other schmuck tells them? Do you really want to get into a debate about what happened when and where and how? There is Islam – which is pure and true and good. And then there are people – like folks who think suicide bombing is okay – they aren't Islam. They're technically misguided Muslims. Judge the religion, not the people. People are humans. They're known to screw up left right and center.

      August 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      if i was you, i would be more scared off european economics and their addiction to wars and military adventures, a bunch of raggedy mullahs in mosques are not the real threat to europe. it would take 50 thousand years for ter rorists to kill as many people as europeans have killed of each other in just world war two, less than 100 years ago!

      August 19, 2010 at 2:49 am |
  13. Corkpuller

    I'm going surfing with my kids today.........peace

    August 18, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  14. Acroyear

    The more I see religion's effects, especially Islam and Christianity on the world, the more I read history, the more I wish Abraham had kept his mouth shut...or better yet, got lost in the desert and never seen again...

    August 18, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  15. Mike

    Idiots! Islam is the enemy! Just look what it has done to Europe! If you think it is so great and good them move to a Muslim country!

    August 18, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
    • islamakesmesad

      Speak the truth in love, bro.

      August 18, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
    • Muhammed sucks

      finally somebody who knows what theyre talking about..

      August 18, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      compared to the world wars and all the Europeans killing each other for centuries, what Islam has done to Europe is nothing in comparison!

      August 19, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  16. ivory67

    Christ is THE way, THE truth, and THE light... NO ONE comes to the Father but through Him. ALL other faiths try to "work" their way to heaven. There are countless false gods out there but only one true God.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
    • islamakesmesad

      Thanks, Ivory. You meant "the life." I appreciate your love for Him.

      Love Him, people! It's not about religion, but about being right with a Holy God. Jesus is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. He died for your sins. You've probably heard that a hundred times. Have you ever just taken a moment and prayed for God to show you if Jesus is your Savior?

      August 18, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
    • Amelia

      I don't think I want to take someone seriously if they're implying that a man like Jesus was God. Sorry – a man is a man is a man, and no matter how good, I'm not about to worship him. The Prophet Muhammad's companions wanted to stand whenever he entered a room and he told them not to, because only God deserves that much respect. To be stood for and bowed to is His right only.

      Plus, the idea that you can confess your sins and be forgiven, because some people happened to crucify the "Son of God" is so hard to get around. What? You don't have to pay for your sins? Just say sorry and then go ahead and do it again – but remember, say sorry again and you'll head right to Paradise. No wonder no one follows what the Bible says – you don't have to.

      August 18, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
    • islamakesmesad

      A man is a man is a man unless you're the God Man. Jesus (the "prophet") declared, "before Abraham was, I Am." "I Am" is what God called Himself at various times in the Old Covenant Scriptures. Jesus was the very Incarnation of Divinity; He was/is the Son of God. He who knew no sin became sin for us on the cross, like a scapegoat, His perfect blood atoning for our sin and iniquity. God's divine wrath was poured out on the Son who gave Himself up for us. But death could not hold Him. God's wrath is forever appeased for those who repent and believe in His only begotten Son. His judgment rests on all until they repent. God is full of mercy, wanting none to perish.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      its odd that in REAL LIFE, everyone has to work their way to something. But when it comes to salvation by christ, you have to do no work!! how are you going to appreciate what you got, if you did not work for it? Little wonder wherever christians are, sin is rampant, alcoholism, nudity, adultery, gambling, weapons proliferation, you name a biblical sin, the christian world is drowning in it. Why? because you are not working for your salvation, its handed to you on a plate. so you quickly fall to temptation because you do not have to "work" to save yourself!

      August 19, 2010 at 2:44 am |
    • CatholicMom

      (B)iraq Hussein Osama,

      Once a person is Baptized you become a member of the mystical body of Christ; you now have Christ in you and you in Him. You are expected to do good works because now you have Christ working through you. If you produce no good fruit you can expect to be cut off the vine as a branch that should be thrown into the fire; the one who judges your works is our Father in Heaven.

      Do not believe that all you have to do is ‘believe and you will be saved’. Even satan believes but he is not saved. The reason…satan refused to do the Father’s will. One who is Baptized can now produce good fruit and this is the will of the Father.

      This is why Jesus Christ commanded the Apostles to "go and make disciples of all, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He had commanded them." [Mt. 28:19-20]

      So after Baptism you can start working….not by anything of yourself but by the grace of god!

      August 19, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  17. theTruth

    I see. So will muslim countries allow other religion to prosper in their own countries? They even have a separate tax for people who are not muslims.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:01 pm |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      yes, that tax is a great blessing too. in exchange it exempts you from military service in an islamic state! while the muslims who do not pay that tax, can be drafted and sent to a war zone. count your blessings!

      August 19, 2010 at 2:38 am |
  18. Roscoe Chait

    And thank you muslims for shoving your NY mosque down our throats, steps from Ground Zero. Very sensitive of you. But then again, your purpose is power and to hell with the unbelievers. You want to show us who is boss. Don't pretend it's anything else.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • Adnan Khan

      The Mosque & Islamic weekend school has already been there for a few years, they are just renovating it. No one said a peep when they didn't know about it, and guess what? There have been no militants pouring out of that mosque or any of the other garbage the right and some of the left is spewing.

      August 18, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • Amelia

      You're welcome.

      August 18, 2010 at 7:01 pm |
    • AnneSD

      There are 2 mosques already in that area just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. One has been there since the 70's and the other since the late 80's. Nobody cared until some journalists realized they could tell a partial story to generate headlines and controversy, and then politicians realized they could jump on the bandwagon and use it to deflect attention from the fact that they are useless and corrupt.

      August 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      With all the controversy, maybe they could just 'add on' to the two they already have in the area to make more room, if that is what they need it for.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  19. abraham

    Islam this Islam that. Who cares? Why is CNN trying propogate ISLAM on our faces? I am sure CNN is in bed with the Arab shieks for a few dollars doing what ever they want.

    August 18, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • the choobs

      Why? Um, maybe because about 1/5 of the world follows varities of this faith and Americans are deeply engaged with the Muslim world and it behooves us to educate ourselve a bit about it. We are fighting two wars, propping up Israel, dealing with bigotry and ignorance at home, and to most people that stuff matters.

      August 18, 2010 at 6:19 pm |
  20. progressv.skywizard

    what a useful pile of knowledge to cram into someones head. Can't people just live a life repsect where they came from and learn in a more progressive way? How efficient is it to stop what you are doing and praying five times a day? Religion was a way to get people to do work they would not want to do otherwise, and to keep people moral. 5 prayer breaks really wrecks a work day. Every organized religion needs to go, keep the history, but don't tell people someone got brought back to life and it's true, or that a giant turtle gave birth to your people. How many more years will it take? Why has no one ever thought "Hey maybe Apollo and Zues are real, did everyone forget? Let's remind them." the answer is no because that's stupid and people were able to admit it. And yet we still believe in newer religions with even less years of practise under their belts. I don't hate religious people, or the fact religion is part of history. I just hate what religion does to the world. And the fact it exists. Right or wrong, just wait til you die, because you can never prove it.

    August 18, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
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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.