Muslims, anti-racists and anti-fascists are organising in Catalonia to resist any Islamophobic backlash after terrorist attacks on Thursday night.
Around 50 fascists from four different Spanish and Catalan Nazi groups attempted on Friday to demonstrate on Barcelona avenue Las Ramblas where the main attack took place.
But they were massively outnumbered and forced to scarper by a more or less spontaneous anti-fascist counter-demonstration.
Muslim groups led a rally against terrorism and Islamophobia on Las Ramblas on Saturday.
Far from right wing claims that Muslims don’t do enough to condemn terror attacks, Muslim groups have led the response to Thursday’s attack.
But Xantal, a Catalan Muslim woman, told Socialist Worker, “Muslims shouldn’t feel obliged to protest against terrorism because we are Muslims. The attack has nothing to do with our religion. The system we live under is to blame, not Islam.”
Attackers drove two vans into crowds on Thursday night on Las Ramblas and in the town of Cambrils. They killed one person in Cambrils and at least 13 in Barcelona, with some of the injured still in a critical condition.
Scottish human rights lawyer and activist Aamer Anwar, in Barcelona for a Catalan independence conference, was on Las Ramblas.
“I was very lucky to survive,” he told Socialist Worker. “I was about to sit down, but it was busy and my son in Glasgow wanted a Barcelona football kit, so I walked on.
“Then the van came seconds from where I had been. I ran when everyone ran. I heard screams and crashing noises. I’m safe but shaken. Being Muslim didn’t give me immunity from these evil men—getting a Barcelona kit for my boy possibly saved my life.”
Spanish Tory prime minister Mariano Rajoy declared three days of mourning.
Police killed five terrorist suspects in Cambrils and are still hunting the man they believe drove the van in Barcelona. Isis’s social media publication claimed the attackers as its “soldiers” though this has largely been met with scepticism.
Muslims at Saturday’s rally described hearing muttering and racist comments about them, and there are fears that more overt Islamophobia could develop. Graffiti was sprayed, probably by Nazis, on a mosque in the town of Montblanc saying, “You’ll die, fucking Moors”.
However, politicians in Catalonia and Spain have largely been cautious and avoided open racism. This is partly a legacy of the anti-war movement in the Spanish state—one of the largest in Europe—and more recent protests for refugees.
Rajoy’s predecessor Jose Maria Aznar was punished at the ballot boxes for lying about a terrorist attack in Madrid in 2004. Rajoy faces a referendum on Catalan independence, called in open defiance of the Spanish authorities, on 1 October.
It also represents the work done by Unite Against Fascism and Racism (UCFR) to confront fascist groups and Islamophobia, particularly in Catalonia. This work only takes on more importance now.
UCFR activist Maria Dantas, a member of revolutionary socialist group Marx21, told Socialist Worker, “The left and social movements have to support our Muslim sisters and brothers against the Islamophobic attacks that have already increased.
“Even so, the debates we've had over recent years, convincing people of the need to fight Islamophobia and of a united movement against racism and fascism means we are in a better situation than we would have been.
“Muslim people in Catalonia are not alone.”