Mr. Ferre – an experienced diplomat who served in Beirut and Jerusalem among other Middle Eastern capitals – was the first to be appointed to a position designed to deal with Muslim communities and their organizations. He has served in the position since 2006. Mr. Ferré focused in his lecture on the demographics of the Muslim community in Spain, their history and their relationship with their “homelands” and the challenges this presents to their integration into the Spanish society. He presented the policies of the Spanish government in relation to Muslims and its role – and constraints - in supporting the Muslim community, particularly in the field of education of children and the training of Imams.
Ambassador Ferré noted that since the European Union does not have a European policy regarding Muslim communities, Spain is developing its own policy and is trying to learn from the experiences of other Muslim communities living in countries with secular constitutions such as the United States. He discussed the implications of the significant numbers of Muslims in Spain and other European countries, the freedoms they enjoy in the areas of ritual practice and political expression and their relationship with other faith communities such as the Catholics.In Spain, Ambassador Ferré noted, the Muslim community has grown to around 1 million people over the last decade. Two-thirds of that community originated in Morocco. The significant Muslim minority of Spain has little relation to the centuries-old history of Muslim rule; their issues of concern are focused almost exclusively on contemporary challenges of living within the Spanish society.
In addition to questions of integration and how Muslims can maintain their identity in a secular society, the Ambassador mentioned that the Government of Spain has a policy of reaching out to all faith groups, including Muslims, Jews, and Christians, through an agreement with those groups and the Ministry of Justice made in 1992. This and other ongoing initiatives demonstrate Spain’s focus on cooperating with its Muslim community.
Mr. Ferré answered many questions from the IIIT students and scholars ranging from his opinion and impressions about the situation in Gaza and Palestine, to wearing of the veil in Spain, to education of Muslims in private and public schools.