Spain Scaling Back Festivals That Blow Up Muhammad Effigies

Traditional Spanish festivals in which revelers blow up effigies of the Prophet Muhammad are scaling back to avoid offending Muslims, a newspaper reported Monday.

The festivals commemorate Spain's expulsion of the Moors, which was completed in 1492 after nearly 800 years of rule in much of the country. The fiestas are common in many areas of Spain, particularly the southeast, including Valencia.

Revelers typically dress up in period costumes and sometimes stage mock battles. In the finale, Christians defeat Muslim Moors and a dummy of the prophet is destroyed.

But after the worldwide Muslim anger over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, published a year ago, some villages are toning down their festivals, said El Pais, Spain's top-selling newspaper.

CountryWatch: Spain

In the most recent case, last month the Valencia-area village of Beneixama did away with the custom of blowing up the head of a Muhammad dummy with firecrackers to mark the moment when Christians seize the village castle from the Moors, the newspaper said.

"It was not an essential act, and as it could hurt some people's feelings we decided to skip it," mayor Antonio Valdes told the daily.

In February, when the cartoon uproar was peaking, the village of Bocairent threw a prophet dummy from the top of a castle but abstained from later blowing it up, as had been its tradition, El Pais said.

Spain is home to about 1 million Muslims, the vast majority of then immigrants from North Africa.

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