Spain's Catholic Church bids to annex the centuries-old Cordoba mosque has been vehemently criticized by rights groups demanding the recognition of the Islamic rich history in Spain.
“Over the past few years, the Diocese of Cordoba has erased the term 'mosque' from all the information leaflets of what is recognized worldwide as a symbol of cultural harmony,” reads ‘Save the Cordoba Mosque’ petition, cited by Agence France Presse (AFP) on Thursday, March 13.
This “offers millions of tourists a distorted historical account, which crudely adulterates the essence of a complex building and an emblem of diversity,” the petition adds.
According to Spanish campaigners, the Catholic Church has been trying to blackout the Islamic history of Cordoba mosque, established centuries ago.
At the historical religious site, visitor's leaflets include misleading information by ignoring reference to the 500-year-old history of the mosque.
Moreover, the entry tickets to the historical site include a statement that read, “Welcome to the Santa Iglesia Cathedral”.
The Great Mosque of Cordoba was built between 784 and 786 during the reign of caliph Abd al-Rahman I.
Serving as a place for Muslim prayers for five centuries, the mosque was consecrated as a church since Ferdinand III, the king of Castile, took Cordoba from the Muslim rulers in 1236.
However, the place is still being called by both Spaniards and tourists as mosque, not cathedral.
The mosque became the center of debates recently after Catholic Church efforts to take it out of public hands were made public.
The church has announced its control over the religious site since 2006 without informing the government which had granted the church the right to run the site earlier.
Fierce debates erupted after it emerged that the local archbishopric is in the process of registering itself as the owner of the entire building – which is public property – a move that will be irreversible by 2016.
Many in the city believe this is part of an effort by the Córdoba Catholic authorities to suppress the monument’s Islamic identity.
Campaigning for the petition, a secular group has collected about 156,000 signatures demanding the reorganization of the mutual Islamic and Christian history of the religious site.
“For the citizens of Cordoba, what has hurt our feelings is that they have cut off the name and the memory of the monument,” said Antonio Manuel Rodriguez, a law professor at Cordoba University.
The petition was also signed by many Spanish writers and scientists and moderate Catholics along with the acclaimed British architect Norman Foster.
On the other hand, the Spanish Catholic church has been getting support from conservative groups who endorse the Cathedral control over the religious site.
Aiming to spoil campaigners' bids to recognize the Islamic history of the cathedral, the conservative pressure group, HazteOir, has made a rival petition collecting more than 96,000 signatures.
Last week, Andalusia's Socialist regional government said that it was considering legal action to protect the public ownership of this cultural asset.
Yet the Cordoba Cathedral insists that it “always had understanding and loyal collaboration with the public administration, never questioning the ownership nor the running of the place of worship”.
Muslims ruled much of Spain for centuries starting from 711 to 1492.
Their last king was defeated by Catholic king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492.
After that Muslims mosques were either left to ruin or converted into churches.
There are nearly 1.6 million Muslims in Spain, making up 3.4% of the country’s 47 million population, according to an Andalusian Observatory.
About 1.1 million of Spain's Muslims re foreigners, while 464,978 are Spanish Muslims.
Islam is the second religion in Spain after Christianity and has been recognized through the 1967 law of religious freedom.
A recent survey found that 70% of Spain’s Muslims feel at home in the European country and that 80 percent feel they have adapted well to the Spanish way of life