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Racist murder of Moroccan provokes outrage in Spain

People say Younes Bilal's horrific murder manifestation of growing anti-Muslim sentiment

Alyssa McMurtry   | 17.06.2021
Racist murder of Moroccan provokes outrage in Spain

OVIEDO, Spain 

People across Spain are calling for more to be done to address racism in the country after the brutal murder of a Moroccan immigrant in the southern region of Murcia.

Younes Bilal, 37, was shot point-blank by a former military officer while spending time with friends at a cafe in the town of Mazarron on Sunday, according to local media reports.

Witnesses said the alleged murderer first argued with a waitress at the cafe about spending too much time speaking with Bilal, loudly using abusive language for all Muslims.

Bilal stood up from his seat to confront the man, asking him to respect the waitress and Muslims.

After that, the former military officer allegedly went home, changed his clothes, grabbed a gun, and returned to the cafe.

“Without saying anything, he stood in front of Bilal, pointed his gun at him after firing a shot in the air, and said: ‘Let’s see if you have the courage to stand up now,’” family members told Spanish daily El Pais. “Younes stood up and the man shot him three times in the chest.”

His wife and child were nearby. They were called over and saw his body lying dead on the ground.

The suspected killer fled the scene, but was later arrested and remains in custody.

The next day, his wife Andrea led a protest calling for justice and condemning the racist attack. Hundreds of neighbors came out to show their support, and more protests are being planned across Spain this week.

There has also been an outpour of support and outrage on social media under the hashtags #TodosSomosYounes, #MoroccanLivesMatter and #JusticeForYounes.

Many suggest that this is just one manifestation of the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, which has particularly been on the rise in the region of Murcia.

In February, vandals attempted to set fire to a mosque in the Murcian town of San Javier and spray-painted ‘Death to Islam' on its windows.

“The situation here has been getting worse for a long time as more migrant workers came to the region to work on farms, living in very precarious conditions,” Juan Guirado, spokesperson for local anti-racism group Convivir Sin Racism, told Spanish daily El Diario.

“This murder is the tip of the iceberg of structural racism … Every racist action that goes without consequences, every attempt to avoid recognizing the problem creates the conditions for a new fatal scene,” tweeted Antumi Toasije, the president of the Council for the Elimination of Racial or Ethnic Discrimination.

Meanwhile, the local Mazarron Muslim community will gather for special prayers on Friday evening before his body is repatriated to his hometown of Beni Mellal.

“We’re all heartbroken, but we have to stay calm. We’ve been living together for many years and we are too are Spanish,” Noureddine Ebakkal, the president of the local Muslim community, told El Diario.​​​​​​​

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