The officer in Spain’s Civil Guard based in Melilla, one of the country’s two north-African enclaves, has written to the Director General of the Civil Guard to ask for a grant so that he can visit the famed Islamic pilgrimage site of Mecca.
The Civil Guard is a paramilitary force tasked with police duties in Spain and comes under the remit of the country's Interior Ministry.
The officer is requesting the police force help him travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia because they also provide grants to his Christian colleagues to go to the Spanish pilgrimage sites of Santiago de Compostela and Zaragoza, as well as the French pilgrimage site of Lourdes.
The most common pilgrimage site visited by Spanish police officers is Zaragoza, where they pay homage to the Virgin de Pilar, the patron saint of Spain’s Civil Guard.
Owing to the fact that the Spanish state is secular and its institutions have no official religion, the officer believes that “we must create similar agreements with the same criteria for other religions that have a significant percentage of believers”.
“It is all about equality,” he added.
He points out in the letter that the Muslim population among Civil Guard officers in Melilla is “significant”, according to the Spanish Huffington Post.
He says that the Civil Guard should establish “help and grants” for these agents so that they can visit Mecca, to “complete one of the precepts of our religion”.
The officer has requested the grant as soon as possible so that he can visit Mecca this year. Millions of Muslims descend on Mecca each year for the annual pilgrimage, or Hajj, which is a religious duty that all physically and financially able Muslims are supposed to perform at least once during their lifetime.
In early 2015, Spanish daily El Mundo reported that the Civil Guard was spending €10,851 ($11,974) on sending 15 officers on a four-day trip to Lourdes.
At the time, the Asociación Unificada de Guardias Civiles, an association representing Civil Guard officers, criticized the expenditure, pointing out that for that amount of money, “we could buy more than 20 bulletproof vests”.
“It seems neither serious nor responsible to spend the budget on a Catholic pilgrimage in the period of crisis and cuts that we are currently in,” said a spokesman for the organization.