MADRID – Hate crimes targeting Spanish Muslims have jumped more than tenfold in 2015, amid increasing attacks on mosques.
“These types of aggressions increase whenever there is an act of violence in a European country,” the president of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities, Mounir Benjelloun, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, April 13.
According to Benjelloun, a total of 534 anti-Islam incidents including online abuse were recorded last year, up from 48 in 2014.
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.
At the time of the attacks, the Union of Islamic Communities of Spain issued a statement saying “extremist groups” were determined to “manipulate public opinion by trying to group together and channel hate towards Muslims.”
Since the Brussels attacks mosques have been vandalized 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.
According to the Union of Islamic communities (UCIDE), Muslims make up 3.8 percent of the Spanish population, 40 percent are Spanish and the remaining 60 percent are immigrants.
Most of the Muslims in Spain are mostly from Morocco although there is a significant presence of Pakistanis and Senegalese Muslims in cities like Barcelona, Valencia and Logrono.