BY ANNA ARCO
A CATHOLIC publishing house in Spain has come under fire for publishing the country's first Spanish-language Islamic textbook.
The Right-wing Spanish daily La RazOn accused Grupo SM, a publishing house owned by the Santa Maria Foundation, an organisation run by the Marian Order, of relativism and syncretism.
Grupo SM presented the textbook, Descubrir Islam ("Discover Islam") to the press on October 17 in Madrid. The book is part of a joint project launched by the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain (UCIDE) and the Public Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence to pioneer the teaching of Islam in schools.
UCIDE represents 75 per cent of Spain's Muslim population. It has also had the support of the Spanish department of education and the country's department for religious Affairs. For Javier Cortes, the General Director of the Grupo SM, the launch of the textbook, geared at children in their first year of primary school is one of the most exciting projects that the publishing house has taken on in recent years.
"'The objective of this project is to supply instruments for integration and for the intercultural and inter-religious dialogue," he said, "The future is played out through education."
La RazOn, however, denounced Grupo SM's involvement in the project, saying that the publishing house had lost sight of the organisation's Christian values and inspiration.
The columnist Alex Navajas wrote that the publishing house "has fallen into the most absolute form of relativism and syncretism".
"This says that promoting the Christian faith is the saute thing as promoting the Islamic faith because in the end all religions are worth the same and all lead to God. Well, then, they should publish the Book of Mormons which sells barbarity or perhaps come to a special relationship with the Jehovah's Witnesses who have one of the most powerful publishing houses in the world," he wrote.
Another thorn in the side of the journalists at La Razor; is that the initiative, which is funded by the Public Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence, a government entity, has cost £28,000 for 15,000 copies of the book, and will continue to do so for the next five years.
The books, which will be sold for approximately 10 — the same price as Catholic textbooks — are likely to bring in £150, 000 for UCIDE this year, according to La Razon.
While Grupo SM said that proceeds from book sales would be used to finance the projects following five years, the paper calculated that the books would generate UCIDE revenues of nearly El million. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, must fund the publishing of Catholic textbooks itself.
Mercedes Rico, the head of the department of religious affairs said that the Public Foundation for Pluralism and Coexistence, "was created because minority faiths have suffered enormous difficulties to finance projects whereas the mainstream faith [the Catholic Church] has many courses to take, and is not limited only to the state, the autonomous communities, the municipalities and society in its surroundings," The Church in Spain has repeatedly complained of an anti-Catholic bias in the policies of the socialist government. • Since winning the election in 2004, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has introduced a raft of legislation that are opposed to Catholic teaching, including a relaxation of the laws against abortion and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.