Granada is best known as the home of the medieval Alhambra palace, but the city also boasts one of the most beautiful new mosques in the region.
Viewed from the “mirador” or vantage point on the other side of the valley, the Alhambra is breathtakingly beautiful. And facing it is the main Mosque of Granada, the Mezquita de Granada, with its lush, green gardens and magnificent views.
The mosque itself was constructed by donations; mostly from Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah in UAE. ‘Islam Hoy’ is a newspaper that was started within the mosque's confines and is now published just across the street. Its editors say it is free from editorial control by any of its benefactors, even though the two sides share the same understanding of Islam and there is a fluid collaboration between the two institutions.
The freesheet, which is published once every two months, was started by members of the Islamic community in Spain in order to propagate knowledge of Islam among Muslims, to analyze current affairs from a Muslim point of view and to inform wider audiences about the teachings of Islam.
The editorial board’s policy is to select subjects which they think will enrich the lives of its estimated 50,000 readers, and not just in a spiritual sense. It says it deals with multiple issues from an Islamic perspective, with a special interest in economics and promoting a deep critique of capitalism.
‘Islam Hoy’ writer Luqman Nieto says:
“What we offer people who read us, really, what we want people to gain from when they read this newspaper, is that there exists an alternative to the economic system that is going on right now and is happening. So we want people, when they read our newspaper, to have hope that there is an alternative and that it works.”
Since its inception four years ago - and before the current Euro crisis – ‘Islam Hoy’ has been advocating adopting an alternative to the current global banking system based on the traditional economic model of Islam, “Muamalah” -- literally meaning “transaction.”
The paper suggests that adopting gold and silver and barter are viable alternatives consistent with the message of Islam. ‘Islam Hoy’ says the system is just going back to Fitra (nature), and the natural way of doing things. It points out that precious metals, for example, have been the most widely used medium of exchange since the beginning of human civilizations.
“It is a solution, because the value of gold and silver is not decreed by any government or any external medium, so people give value to it and that is the value it has. So it cannot decrease, it cannot increase. It gives people the freedom, so giving people the freedom to choose. It's not only gold and silver but any medium of exchange, you give them the freedom to live and to express themselves,” says Nieto.
The newspaper states ‘we promote truly open, publicly funded markets where monopoly is illegal and where everyone can make a living. We encourage free trade without usury, contracts based on trust, guilds as a protection for workers and professionals.’
Ahmed Ben Attia, a Moroccan arts promoter, says the wide-ranging backgrounds of the journalists and the subjects explored give its readership a different perspective.
“The contributors come from different countries such as Morocco, Spain, South Africa - sometimes Dubai, England and France. There are a variety of points of view on the diverse subjects the paper deals with. One of the most important central theme is paper money. That is to say the creation of money, the use of money in the current capitalist system. You find a completely different point of view than you would in more-widespread mainstream media,” Attia said.
‘Islam Hoy’ is distributed free of charge to universities, mosques and restaurants across Spain. The paper is gaining more readers and hopes to appeal further afield than Spanish Muslims and North Africa. An online version and web TV (www.islamhoy.com) are also followed in Argentina, the United States and other countries in South America, reaching several thousand readers, according to estimates by the newspaper.
Malik Basso, who sits on the editorial board, says the paper, which is written in Spanish and primarily circulated in Spain, is planning to expand its coverage to spread its message outside the Iberian Peninsula.
“The editorial line of Islam Hoy is, until now it's been for Spanish-speaking Muslims and non-Muslims in Spain, South America and the United States. But we are now thinking of having an Arabic sheet - an Arabic language sheet which Arabic speakers can understand, because our message is also for them, obviously,” Basso said.
Photographer Sarah Ojembarrena says that the paper is markedly different to other Spanish newspapers in its approach.
“Islam Hoy media gives me the opportunity to develop my career and to increase my knowledge of this industry in a medium that is an alternative to conventional Spanish papers as well as international media. It offers a distinct perspective on different aspects of life - political, social, economic, family and personal. I know about this and connect to a philosophy that I have access to.”
There are about two million Muslims in Spain. The great majority are immigrants from North Africa as well as second and third generation Spanish Muslims of North African origin. The newspaper says it is also widely followed by non-Muslim Spanish natives.