During a summit on “Islamophobia” organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Arab League of Cordoba in Spain, the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, demanded Muslims be granted the right to hold religious services at the Cathedral of Cordoba.
The first day of the summit quickly became controversial when Moussa demanded that the Cathedral, which was once a Mosque, be made available for Muslim prayer.
“All churches and mosques are built for prayer and to be used for this end; I think there wouldn’t be a religious clash at all; the clash would be instead of a political nature,” Moussa said. However, he ignored questions pertaining to why Christians are not only forbidden to pray in mosques but are even prohibited from building churches in some Muslim countries.
Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos, who is president of the OSCE and the inspiration behind the summit, distanced himself from the controversy and said the Church would have to decide whether or not to allow the Cathedral to be used by Muslims. “Whatever the Church does will be done well,” he said.
Diocesan officials in Cordoba responded by reiterating the position Bishop Juan Jose Asenjo laid out last December when Muslims at that time made the same demands. Bishop Asenjo had said that “inter-religious dialogue” was necessary, but he warned that the “shared use of churches and places of worship would not be helpful to dialogue and would only create confusion among the faithful, resulting in religious indifferentism.”
The bishop pointed out that common worship space makes sense in “an airport or at an Olympic village, as these are not properly speaking churches but rather places of prayer, but that this is not the case with the Cathedral.” He said he was not opposed that Muslims have “dignified” places of worship but that “these places should be proportionate to the number of faithful that practices Islam, which in Cordoba is relatively small.”
“The seventeen centuries of Cordoba’s Christian history deserve to be respected,” Bishop Asenjo said at that time. Recent work by archeologists has shown that the Cathedral’s sub-floor dates to the 4th and 6th centuries. The Cathedral was completely destroyed after the Muslim invasion of 711.