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Spain's New Moriscos

There is much debate these days about Moroccan immigrants’ assimilation in Spain. Moroccan immigrants, both legal and illegal, estimated to be close to one million, make up the largest single national group in that country, yet they are far from doing well or making their distinct mark on Spain’s culture or politics.  In my travels during September and October 2008, I met quite a few Moroccans who are actively trying to carve out a space in Spain’s mainstream society; still, there is no doubt that theirs is an uphill struggle, one that will require a larger collective effort and decades of dedicated work.  There are a few reasons why Moroccans occupy a somewhat marginal place in Spanish society, but two that stand out are Spain’s centuries-long conflict with Morocco and the unwillingness of Moroccan immigrants, even when highly educated and competent, to engage in politics and help shape public opinion.
That Moroccans can be major assets to Spain was made clear to me after spending a few days with my childhood friend Mustafa Akalay in Granada and a few hours with Mohammed Chaib Akhdim in Cornella, a suburb of Barcelona.  In many ways, the two men are quite different, but they both share a passion for the successful assimilation of Muslim immigrants and for enlarging the space of coexistence. 
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