Tom Worden, Daily Mail (London), September 16, 2010
A popular Spanish nightclub has been forced to change its name from Mecca after sparking a furious reaction around the Islamic world.
Intelligence chiefs warned owners they were being targeted by extremists who claim the disco is insulting to their religion.
Hackers broke into the nightclub’s website and posted a video threatening ‘a great war between Spain and the people of Islam’ if the venue did not change its name.
The controversy then spread around the Muslim world with media in the Middle East and north Africa picking up on the story.
Today the owners, said to include former Real Madrid goalkeeper Santiago Canizares, agreed to change the club’s name after meeting with local Muslim leaders.
La Meca (Spanish for Mecca), was the most popular disco in the coastal city of Aguila, in Murcia, southeastern Spain, in the 1980s and 90s before it closed down a decade ago.
It re-opened on June 18 with the same name, sparking the current controversy.
Last week Spain’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), alerted the owners to threats being made online.
Moderate Spanish Muslims also called for the name to be changed.
Mohamed Ali, head of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities said: ‘Muslims pray towards Mecca and it is there that the prophet received the holy Koran.
‘Calling a place for dancing and drinking by that name shows disregard to the feelings of Muslims.’
Some Muslims have also objected to the design of the club, which is adorned with minarets in the style of a mosque.
The local Islamic Federation of the Region of Murcia consulted lawyers who planned to sue the club for insulting the honour of their religion.
This week Iranian station Radio Islam described the name as ‘insulting’ and Dubai-based Arabic news channel Al Arabiya, the second largest in the Arabic world, said it ‘insulted Spanish Muslims’.
Facebook pages have been set up demanding the name is changed.
Abou Karim, writing on a Facebook site called ‘Everyone against the nightclub called Mecca in Spain’, said: ‘They have declared war on Islam.’
The controversy even crossed the Atlantic to the U.S., where the website Infidels are Cool commented: ‘So it’s fine to build a mosque within a block of Ground Zero, where Muslims killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, but using the name of a city is a problem.’
Today the owners of the nightclub called a press conference to be held with local Muslim leaders in which they will confirm their plans to change the venue’s name.
On its website the club is asking for suggestions for a new name.
The disco’s logo, which includes Islamic symbols, and the minarets, will also be changed.
Spain has 1.5 million Muslims, making up just under three per cent of the population.
The country has long been a target for Al-Qaeda fanatics who demand the right to re-establish Muslim rule in southern Spain.
In March 2004 Islamist terrorists blew up four packed commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and injuring 1,500 others.
The group which carried out the attack were said to be inspired by Osama Bin Laden’s calls to revive Al-Andalus, as Spain’s Muslim kingdom was known in the Middle Ages.
Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, is the holiest meeting site in Islam.
Every year around 13 million Muslims make a pilgrimage to the city.