Cordoba: Fight erupts after Austrian Muslims try praying at former mosque
Related story: Cordoba: Church rejects 'Muslim prayer for jobs' proposal
A confrontation between Muslim tourists and guards employed by the Roman Catholic bishop at the world-famous Cordoba mosque saw two people arrested and two guards injured last night.
Trouble broke out when the visitors knelt to pray in the building, a former mosque turned into a Christian cathedral in the 13th century, where a local bishop, Demetrio Fernández, recently insisted that a ban on Muslim prayers must remain.
Half a dozen members of a group of more than 100 Muslims from Austria had started praying among the marble columns and coloured arches of the vast building when security guards ordered them to stop.
"They provoked in a pre-planned fashion what was a deplorable episode of violence," the bishop's office said in a statement.
Cathedral authorities said the guards had invited the visitors to continue viewing the inside of a 24,000 sq metre building that was once the world's second biggest mosque, but without praying.
"They replied by attacking the security guards, two of whom suffered serious injuries," the bishop's office said.
Local newspapers reported that a dozen police officers had been called into the building and that these, too, had been attacked when they tried to arrest the two visitors.
The local Diario de Cordoba newspaper quoted anonymous police sources as saying that a knife had been taken off one of those arrested.
A group of local Muslim converts have long campaigned for the right to pray at the mosque building. "The building is very big and the main cathedral occupies only a part of it," said Mansur Escudero of the Junta Islamica group.
"They publicise the building as a mosque because that brings in tourists, but they do not allow the Muslims who pay money to go inside to pray," he said.
Source: Guardian (English), h/t Bivouac-ID