Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 July 2016
Spain is one of the few countries in the EU where Islam has had a historical role in the social and cultural construction of its identity. However, its modern history is marked by acts of repudiation of non-Christian cultures. Opinion polls indicate that certain groups of immigrants from North Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, but mainly Muslims, are considered to be incompatible with the popular conception of Spanish identity. The reason for this perception is related to the social construction of the immigrant as the ‘other to govern’ by political, academic and media discourses. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that immigration law also plays a fundamental role in this strategy of ‘orientalisation’, namely the attribution of certain qualities to immigrant groups (illegal, antisocial, criminal, inassimilable, terrorist), the aim of which is to legitimise the selective control of immigration. The Spanish immigration and citizenship regime contributes to the construction of otherness, and therefore to the political and legal (re)definition of what ‘being Spanish’ means.