MADRID, 24 September 2004 — Spain’s former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has come under criticism for implying that terrorists are comparable to the Arab-Berber Moors who once ruled parts of Spain, press reports said yesterday.
“Spain’s problem with Al-Qaeda and terrorism did not begin with the Iraq crisis,” the former conservative leader said in a lecture at Washington’s Georgetown University on Tuesday.
“It is necessary to go back (...) to the beginning of the 8th century, when Spain was invaded by the Moors and refused to become another part of the Islamic world, launching a long battle to recover its identity,” Aznar added.
The Moors were expelled in the late 15th and early 16th centuries after Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella completed the Christian Reconquest.
Socialist representative Trinidad Jimenez described Aznar’s comments as “pathetic” while columnist Juan Cruz wrote that they “chilled” him.
The former premier used “pub language” at a university, Cruz said, accusing Aznar of trying to justify his support for the Iraq war and the subsequent Madrid train bombings with an alleged Muslim vengeance over the expulsion of their coreligionists centuries ago.
The former premier’s way of falsifying history and “reclaiming the crusades between Islam and Christianity” showed “a worrying similarity between Aznar and Bin Laden”, the daily El Pais said in an editorial. The Aznar government, which was ousted in the March 14 elections after the Madrid train bombings killed 191 people, was known for its poor relations with neighboring Morocco.
Aznar’s comments contrasted with those of his Socialist successor Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who proposed “an alliance of civilizations” between the West and the Islamic world to the United Nations General Assembly on the day that Aznar spoke.
Eduardo Zaplana of Aznar’s Popular Party (PP) slammed Zapatero’s words as “empty and arrogant”, while his party colleague Jaime Mayor Oreja accused the government of acting in an “irresponsible” manner.
“Mr. Zapatero has not understood that terrorists” cannot be included in such “angelic” comments, he added.