Pro-refugee protest Spain Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Resilience of Spanish Democracy

There is more to Spain than the simmering confrontation between the government and the would-be separatists of the Catalonia region. As even that conflict shows, the country deserves notice for its resistance to divisive anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiment and politics in recent years.

MADRID – The idea that “Spain is different” drove generations of romantic travelers across the Pyrenees to see for themselves, their imaginations stirred by visions of vibrant women and charming bandits. But Spain is no longer just the defiant fist on the hip of Bizet’s cigar-making Carmen. Despite the attention now focused on the Catalonia region’s secession bid , Spain now stands out among Western democracies in a few critical – and positive – ways.

Spain’s unique character can be seen in its response to terrorist attacks. In the United Kingdom, the 2005 London bombings resulted in additional legal curbs on individual and group liberties. Likewise, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States drove a series of changes to surveillance laws that made it easier for the government to spy on ordinary Americans, not to mention the Global War on Terror, which continues to wreak havoc in the Middle East.

By contrast, after the March 11, 2004, bombings of Madrid’s train system, which left nearly 200 dead, an “alliance of civilizations” arose in Spain to disarm extremism by building bridges with Islam. This tolerant attitude toward the country’s Muslim minority endures to this day, despite another attack in August, on La Rambla, in the heart of Barcelona.

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