A Muslim Civil Guard officer has asked Spanish authorities to fund his pilgrimage to Mecca, since colleagues have received funding for Christian holy trips.
The officer, based in Melilla, one Spain’s two exclaves on the North African coast, wrote to the country’s Ministry of Justice to request the grant “as soon as possible” so he can visit Mecca this year.
He pointed out that the Civil Guard provides funding for officers who want to pilgrimage to sites such as Santiago de Compostela, Zaragoza and the French shrine of Lourdes.
The Local reports that Zaragoza is usually the most popular destination as it contains the shrine dedicated to the Virgin of Pilar, patron of Spain’s Civil Guard.
However, since the Spanish state is officially secular, the officer said that “we must create similar agreements with the same criteria for other religions that have a significant percentage of believers”.
He added in his letter that the number of Muslims in the Civil Guard is “significant” and that his request is “all about equality.”
Millions of Muslims visit the Saudi city of Mecca each year for the pilgrimage, know as Hajj, which believers must perform at least once in their lifetimes.
The Civil Guard is a paramilitary force charged with police duties in Spain. Although its day-to-day work involves traffic patrols, airport security and coast guard activities, its officers have also served as UN peacekeepers and even helped Spanish troops in Iraq.