Outside view of the Mecca nightclub. Photo published on Picasa by Martin on August 17, 2010.
UPDATE, September 17, 2010: The owners of the Mecca nightclub and representatives of the Muslim community held a joint press conference Friday after reaching an agreement: the club will be re-named "La Isla" (the Island), the crescent topping the dome will be removed, and the minaret will be turned into a light-house.
The re-opening of a Spanish nightclub named "Mecca" has sparked the anger of Islamist groups, who refuse that the holy city of Muslims be associated with a western party paradise.
Near the city of Aguilas, in the southern province of Murcia, a blue dome and spire stand out from the arid landscape. The famous "Mecca" nightclub was a hotspot for clubbers, tourists and VIPs on the Costa del Sol in the late 1980s, but later closed down for nearly a decade.
The legendary club re-opened in 2010, and the new owners offered a Senegalese security guard the job of head bouncer. To their surprise, he turned down the job, saying that, as a Muslim, the club’s name was at odds with his religious beliefs.
The devout guard’s refusal buzzed on the Spanish and Arabic blogosphere, and before long, several Islamic groups began calling for the club to change its name. Radical Islamic forums began echoing calls for jihad against the offensive club. On September 13, the Mecca’s website was pirated by a hacker who demanded that the club’s owners immediately re-name the establishment, and warned of a “great war between Spain and the people of Islam” if they refused. The owner’s are unsure how to respond and have launched an online survey to ask Web users for their opinion.
The city of Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed and the holiest meeting place for Muslims. Observant Muslims are expected to travel to Mecca, located in western Saudi Arabia, at least once in their life.
"Local Muslim organisations have all condemned threats from extremists"
Paulino Ros is a journalist and blogger in Murcia. He regularly covers events concerning the Muslim community, and was the first to write about the Senegalese bouncer’s refusal.
Some friends of mine told me about a Muslim Senegalese bouncer who refused to work in a nightclub called "Mecca". I thought it was an interesting story, so I wrote an article on August 25 titled "Should a nightclub ever be called 'Mecca'?", citing the reaction of several Muslim groups. Then the Internet worked its magic, and the story was all over Arab blogs a week later. Even major news outlets like the TV channel Al Arabiya, Iranian state radio or Arab-language news agencies began covering the story in September.
Shortly afterwards, the club’s owners began receiving the first serious threats from radical Islam groups. Local Muslim organisations have all condemned the threats, saying they reject any action taken outside the limits of the law and free democratic debate, such as the website hacking.
The "Mecca" nightclub. Photo published by Assam1 on YouTube.
The club's Minaret stands out in the night. Photo published by Assam1 on YouTube.
However, the Muslim community here is uneasy with the idea that a place of leisure, even debauchery, could be associated with their holy city. Twenty years ago, there wouldn’t have been such an outcry because there were hardly any Muslims in Murcia. Today, they represent 15 percent of the population.
A name change could have serious financial repercussions for the club. More than two million euros were invested in the site’s renovation, and the club is known and advertised as "Mecca". Right now, the owners are discussing a possible name change with local Muslim representatives. We will know on September 17, after their joint press conference, whether they have reached an agreement. But it's in no-one's interest that tensions on this issue prevail."
The threats against the "Mecca" nightclub
The hacker who pirated the club's website on September 13 wrote in his message that the club's name "attacked the hearts of Muslims worldwide". "Would you like your church to be turned into an animal farm or rubbish deposit?", he added? Photo published on the Hespress website.
Thsi video published on YouTube on September 8, 2010, calls for the boycott of Spanish goods to protest the "Mecca" nightclub. It repeats an online rumour that the nightclub was decorated with extracts from the Koran. The rumour was denied by Muslim representatives who visited the club.
The owners of the nightclub launched an online survey on their website. It reads: "Would you change 'Mecca's' name? What would you call it?"