In an interview with the Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo, Benaisa said: “Europeans are very ethnocentric, they believe that if they think something, everyone thinks alike. Spanish society has such a low opinion of Islam and of Muslim women because of the media. Whenever there is a case of abuse perpetrated by a Muslim they attribute it to religious principles. But when the accused is a non-Muslim, no one ever mentions if the abuser was a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist or a New Age follower.”
Benaisa is not the first Muslim cleric to test the limits of Spanish laws on religious freedom.
In Barcelona, a court found Mohamed Kamal Mustafa, a Muslim cleric at a mosque in the southern Spanish city of Fuengirola, guilty of inciting violence against women after he published a book entitled “Women in Islam,” in which he advised men on how to beat their wives without leaving incriminating marks.
Mustafa wrote that verbal warnings followed by a period of sexual inactivity could be used to discipline a disobedient wife. If that failed, he argued that, according to Islamic law, husbands could administer beatings. “The blows should be concentrated on the hands and feet,” he wrote, “using a rod that is thin and light so that it does not leave scars or bruises on the body.”
The judge sentenced Mustafa to six months in prison and ordered him to study the Spanish Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Mustafa was released after 22 days on the condition that he undertake a “re-education course.” An unrepentant Mustafa characterized his time in prison as a “spiritual retreat.”
In January 2010, Mohamed Benbrahim, an imam in the city of Tarragona near Barcelona, was arrested for forcing Fatima Ghailan, a 31-year-old Moroccan woman, to wear a hijab, an Islamic head covering. The imam had threatened to burn down the woman’s house because, according to him, she is an “infidel” as she works outside of the home, drives an automobile and has non-Muslim friends. Bowing to political pressure to prevent “a social conflict,” a court in Tarragona absolved Benbrahim of all wrongdoing.
In March 2012, Spanish authorities arrested a radical Islamic preacher for calling on Muslims to use physical and psychological violence to “discipline” errant wives who refuse to submit to Islamic Sharia law or obey their husbands.
Spanish public prosecutors said Abdeslam Laaroussi, a charismatic imam from Morocco who preaches at a large mosque in Terrassa, an industrial city 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Barcelona, was guilty of “incitement to violence against women” for “providing concrete examples of the manner in which wives should be beaten, how to isolate them inside the family home and how to deny them sexual relations.”
Police say witnesses provided them with recordings of sermons Laaroussi preached at the Badr Mosque in downtown Terrassa where more than 1,500 people attend prayers services each Friday, and where he instructed his listeners to “hit women with the use of a stick, the fist or the hand so that no bones are broken and no blood is drawn.”
Laaroussi has refused to cooperate with police or provide evidence: he says he does not recognize the legitimacy of the Spanish state.