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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Spain: center-right politician marries Moroccan Muslim woman

Gingerly, and overshadowed by the news coming from Melilla, some written and digital media picked an "echo of society" with political undertones. PP MP Gustavo de Aristegui celebrated this weekend (NOTE: it was this last week-end) in Rabat a party in style to celebrate his commitment to Nadia Jalfi. Jalfi is Moroccan and works as a communications professional in an agency which was aimed at improving the external image of her country at an international level. Aristegui is PP's Foreign Ministry spokesman in Congress, and a few months ago, he caused unrest within the party for having placed himself on the side of Morocco in the conflict with the Sahrawi Aminatu Haidar. At that time there were people who pointed out that he was maintaining that position due to his personal good relationships in Morocco.
Furthermore, at first, there were rumours which claimed that the bride was a relative of King Mohamed VI. Gustavo de Aristegui himself, who hasn't spoken for months on the subject, flatly denied yesterday that end to ABC News, as reported by this site in the afternoon. His fiancee has nothing to do with Alawite royalty, according to the diplomat. In any case, according to El Mundo and other MSM, colleagues within the PP "are not thrilled" with this wedding, specially because Arístegui, an expert on Islamic issues, is to marry a Moroccan Muslim.
Actually, the wedding will not take place until next October but this weekend they held a typically Moroccan engagement party. Arístegui has also added that, after the marriage, Jalfi will leave his current job in the service of Morocco's image abroad. Once married, they will live in Madrid and he will continue to perform its work in the Congress of Deputies.
It will be a civil ceremony. The two are divorced and met two years ago as a result of their work. Since then the relationship caused a lot of rumours, specially the mentioned ones which linked her to the Moroccan royalty. The guests (about sixty from Spain) will be arriving today in the neighboring country. Among others, and despite suspicions, there are also PP leaders.
Gustavo Manuel de Aristegui y San Román (Madrid, 1963) graduated in law and diplomacy. His political career began with José María Aznar, who appointed him general director of his cabinet in the Interior Ministry, who was then Jaime Mayor Oreja, in the first Council of Ministers he presided. Since 2000, he has been PP's MP for Guipúzcoa (Basque country) and deputy for foreign affairs spokesman of the parliamentary PP group.
The web is full on comments related to this wedding. Because of the high position in Moroccan society the bride has, it's possible that King Mohammed VI has had to give his approval to the wedding. There is also speculation on how her Muslim conservative political beliefs and customs will affect his political views and positions.
There are three facts here, which are interesting. He has been, inside PP, one of the most outspoken critics of Jihadism (his book "Jihad in Spain. The obssession for the reconquest of Al-Andalus" is really good), although his soft position towards Islam didn't make me an enthusiastic fan of him. Then there is the question about whether or not he has converted to Islam, specially considering that no Muslim woman can be married to a non-Muslim man. And thirdly, Spanish-Moroccan relationship is not at its best moment now, so it's not very convenient to see the man who is Foreign Policy speaker in Parliament of the main opposition party, married to a high-class woman who is working in improving Moroccan image abroad, that is, working for Moroccan Govt and socially linked to it. 

There are of course, people who are trying to tell critics that "oh, please, don't be judgemental". If Mr. Arístegui would be the baker or the greengrocer, I wouldn't be worried at all. But he has a really important role in the political landscape to overseen the important consequences this marriage can have. Not for him only, but for Spain as a whole.

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