A senior politician has unleashed a fierce debate about Spain's relationship with its Islamic past and drawn accusations of racism after celebrating the Christian re-conquest of the country from Muslim rule in the Middle Ages.

January 2nd is the anniversary of the 1492 Catholic victory over Muslim forces defending the prized southern city of Granada for a decade. It is considered a turning point in ending eight centuries of Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula.

Esperanza Aguirre, leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP) in Madrid and a former mayor of the capital, marked the date by posting a comment on Twitter: "Today marks 525 years since the taking of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs. A day of glory for Spaniards. With Islam we would not be free."

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