Spain the day after suffering the worst act of terrorism ever committed here.

Most people in Spain got up this morning still feeling shaken after yesterdays events. Many schools and universities have closed for the day, most bodies have been identified, over 500 people remain in hospital, all pre-election activity has been cancelled and protest marches have been organised all over Spain this afternoon. The marches are expected to be as numerous as Spains last massive national mobilisation last year, when millions of Spaniards took part in demostrations to protest against the Governments decision to support the USA and UK in the war against Iraq. Ironically, as all major news agencies have already mentioned, latest evidence emerging from the first investigations into this mindless act of terrorism seems to point at a possible Al qaeda link.

One of the unique features of Spain is its Arab history. Arabs lived in parts of Spain for nearly 800 years and their contribution to Spanish culture, language, food and agriculture is still evident today.

Until very recently, Spain was trusted by many Arab nations as a friendly State, and even though new democratic Spain did not have a major role in many international organisations in the 1980s, Spanish politicians and diplomats were deeply involved in all the major international peace initiatives undertaken in the Middle East during that time. Southern Spain is the first stop on the long journey of thousands of north African and Moslem people searching to escape from poverty and find a new opportunity in Europe. One of the challenges of modern Spain is how to address its changing demographics and how to integrate a growing community of immigrants into the Spanish social structure.

If this terrorist act turns out to have been perpetrated by Arab extremists, it reflects just how much Spains position has changed over the past few years.

In a world where increasingly violence is used to determine events, Dialogue, Cooperation and Respect are more necessary than ever. And only values such as these will succeed in wiping out terrorism.

All major television and radio channels and news web sites continue to devote all their time to the aftermath of yesterday’s events. El Pais can still be accessed for free today, and was one of the first Spanish sources to quote the possible Al Qaeda link. Cadena Ser and El Mundo are other good sources of latest information. The list of victims is not yet available, and is expected to be released some time today.