Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Rebuilding Islam in Contemporary Spain

The Politics of Mosque Establishment, 1976–2013

In the Series
Studies in Spanish History

Avi Astor is a Ramón y Cajal Fellow with the Research Group on the Sociology of Religion (ISOR) in the Department of Sociology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He researches a variety of topics related to religion, culture, and identity in contemporary Spain. His work has appeared in several prominent journals, including Theory and Society, The International Migration Review, The Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Following Spain’s democratic transition during the late 1970s, political and business elites strategically exploited Spain’s rich Islamic heritage in order to further projects of national redefinition, tourist promotion, and urban revitalization. Large and ornate mosques were built in several Spanish regions, and the State granted Muslim communities an extensive array of rights and privileges that was arguably without parallel in Europe. Toward the onset of the 21st century, however, tensions surrounding Islam’s growing presence in Spain became increasingly common, especially in the northeastern region of Catalonia. These tensions centered largely around the presence, or proposed establishment, of mosques in Barcelona and its greater metropolitan area.

This book examines how Islam went from being an aspect of Spain’s national heritage to be recovered and commemorated to a pressing social problem to be managed and controlled. It traces the events and developments that gave rise to this transformation, the diverse actors involved in the process, and the manner in which disputes over Muslim incorporation have become entangled with deeply-divisive debates over church–state relations and territorial autonomy. The core of Rebuilding Islam in Contemporary Spain centers on the shifting political and social dynamics surrounding the establishment of mosques, and the question of why anti-mosque mobilizations have been more prevalent and intense in Catalonia than other Spanish regions.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-894-7
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $79.95
Release Date: November 2017
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-966-1
Paperback Price: £35.00 / $49.95
Release Date: December 2018
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: In Colour


List of Abbreviations, Tables, Maps, Figures and Illustrations


Chapter 1 - Reviving al-Andalus

Chapter 2 - From Celebration to Stigmatization

Chapter 3 - Migration, Urbanization, and Social Stratification in Catalonia

Chapter 4 - Urban Marginality and Anti-Mosque Mobilization

Chapter 5 - Urban Privilege and Neighborhood Defense

Chapter 6 - A Point of Comparison: The Case of Madrid

Chapter 7 - From the Social to the Legislative Realm




Reviewed in the Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, 43 (1), 2018

Reviewed by Mikaela Rogozen-Soltar, University of Nevada, Reno, in the Bulletin of Spanish Studies: Hispanic Studies and Researches on Spain, Portugal and Latin America (XCVII, 2020)
The book’s detailed focus on mosque debates allows Astor to craft a compelling, well evidenced analysis of this specific issue. This specificity also leaves room for expansion in future research. Some readers might be interested in broader theorizations of mosques as symbolically socially important and research on their role in the use of neighbourhood space by Muslims and non-Muslims more broadly. This book enticingly introduces readers to snippets of Muslim leaders’ responses to mosque opposition, but future research with Muslims beyond imams and community leaders will add another interesting dimension to this issue.    

Although Muslims occupied the Iberian Peninsula for many centuries, they have remained the “Other.” This ambiguity between Spanish society and Islam has created several historical narratives: Muslims as primitive and sadistic; Muslims celebrated for their art, architecture, chivalry and technical advances; Muslims of al-Andalus admired for their cohabitation between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Following the transition from dictatorship to democracy in the late 1970s, these narratives have shaped the way in which Muslims have been reincorporated into Spanish society. Astor analyzes this process in the context of conflicts surrounding the construction of mosques since 1970s. In the 1980s, and 1990s, although there were few Muslims in Spain, a number of large-scale mosques were built in Madrid, Andalusia and Valencia. Efforts were also made to preserve the country’s Islamic heritage: Islam was formally recognized in 1989 as a “deeply rooted religion," and in 1992 Muslims were granted a series of rights and privileges vis-à-vis their religious integration. Attitudes began to change as immigrants poured into the country from Africa and South Asia, and jihadist fanaticism and bombing took the world stage. Astor brings a multi-faceted perspective, placing the historical narratives on Islam in relation to wider and more contemporary ones concerning urban development, internal immigration, social inequality, and the marginalization of working-class neighborhoods. He sees the way pressures are negotiated, how specific policies and practices are put into place, playing determinative roles in shaping the future of church-state relations in Spain.

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab.

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.