On March 22, 2016, hours after Brussels was shocked by two terrorist attacks that killed 35 people, the ultranationalists of Hogar Social Madrid (Madrid Social Home) detonated smoke grenades outside the largest mosque in the Spanish capital, brandishing banners that read “Today Brussels, tomorrow Madrid?”
But their attack didn’t spread to other mosques or to refugee centers or anywhere else in Spain. The group even denied in court that it had been an attack, calling their actions a peaceful demonstration against a “center used for terrorist recruitment.”
It was par for the course. Just months earlier in December, far-right party Vox flopped in the face of a tremendous opportunity: general elections at a time of great political fragmentation. Poll after poll, Spaniards had expressed their dissatisfaction with traditional parties, corruption and unemployment.
In Europe, the far right appeared to be on the upswing. Marine Le Pen’s National Front had won the 2015 regional elections in six out of 13 French departments, garnering over 28 percent of the vote. In the UK, the euroskeptic party UKIP won third place percentagewise in the general election the same year.
Vox, however, failed to win a single seat, bringing home only 0.23 percent of the vote. Then as now, Spain has remained an exception to the spread of far-right parties through most of Europe, including traditionally progressive countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark. A combination of markedly lower levels of immigration, Europhilia and history has shielded the southern country from the developments elsewhere on the continent.
‘Got it right’
It’s not for lack of racism. Spain is as racist as any other EU country, says Moha Gerehou, a journalist, migrant rights activist and president of SOS Racismo Madrid, an NGO that works to eradicate xenophobia in the capital and its surroundings.
“The signs are the same, from racial profiling to difficulties…