An Obnoxious Display of Religious Hatred in Sweden


Photo source: Al Jazeera

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

Swedish cities of Norrkoping and Linkoping have been rocked by anti-migrant rallies and clashes as Sweden’s far-right extremists have gone as far as instigating a campaign for burning the Muslim holy book, the Quran. The riots sparked after an anti-Muslim Danish Swedish politician called Rasmus Paludan, belonging to Stram Kurs (Hardline) party, announced his ‘burning tour’ of the Quran during the holy month of Ramadhan across Sweden in April 2022. This highly provocative incitement was publicly sanctioned by the Swedish authorities. After that, several other cities witnessed riots as well.

As a matter of fact, Azra Muranovic, deputy chair of the Municipal Council of Vernamo and a Social Democrat party politician believed that the Quran burning was a planned campaign. But, the Swedish government believes that there are some foreign actors behind the riots, despite giving Paludan a green signal for Quran burning. The local police, however, believe that people have a constitutional right to express opinions, as there is no prohibition for blasphemy in Swede law. The government also alleges that there seems to be some disinformation campaign about Swedish social service agencies allegedly kidnapping Muslim children.

After the incident, Swedish national broadcaster SVT has even dismissed one of its correspondents over comments criticising Paludan following riots over alleged Quran burnings. This is a grave concern as no public condemnation for anti-Muslim sentiment in Sweden by the ruling government has been given as of yet. In fact, the government seems to run away from responsibly instilling peace and pluralism. They have also not predicted the global spillover of condemnations on such nasty incidents, which might propel in the same way, by sustaining itself firmly, as happened with the Danish cartoon controversy on Prophet Muhammad.

Outside Sweden, there were some international reactions to it. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan and Iran condemned the incident. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Muslim World League also criticised the incident and expressed concerns about extremism, counter-extremism and Islamophobia.

This is also not the first time Paludan has incited and hurt Muslim beliefs. In 2020, his supporters set cars on fire and stores were damaged in Malmo. He wanted to burn the Quran at that time too and was arrested in France and deported. That same year, Paludan was jailed in Denmark for a month for a string of offences, including racism. He was also banned to enter Belgium for one year. It was also alleged that in 2021 he had written sexually explicit messages to underage boys online.

Chaos erupted almost everywhere Paludan went. In neighbourhood after neighbourhood, police were pelted with rocks by furious rioters. ‘We have seen violent riots before. But this is something else,’ Chief of Police Anders Thornberg explained in a public statement. ‘It is a matter of gross violence against life and property, especially against police officers.’ On television two days later, he described a widespread sense among police officers that one did not know ‘if you will return home after work, if you will be alive or not when the shift is over and you are met by merciless violence from several hundred.’

According to the police authority, many of the counter-rioters are involved in criminal gangs. These are the very same gangs that already terrorise their neighbours and compete with the state and local authorities for control of so-called Sweden’s ‘vulnerable’ immigrant areas.

What is strange is that Sweden has seen street riots before, as the country has witnessed attacks on police and rescue workers. But, what played out this Easter weekend has left Swedes in shock. It is because this time around, it's not only men on the streets. As per an article written by Paulina Neuding on Spectator, the weird thing is that even women aged 40 to 60 threw rocks at the police.

Just like the Hardline party, Swedish Democrats are a right-wing populist party that could manage a huge chunk of vote share in the next election, according to a report by Bloomberg in May 2021. It is mainly because there has been an influx of immigrants into Sweden, and most of the immigrants are Muslims.

Sweden’s neighbour, Denmark knows how serious the situation has become. Denmark recently cited Swedish gang crime and the risk of extremist attacks when it decided to extend its temporary border controls to Sweden. It is an extraordinary decision because the two countries have been in a passport union since 1952.

Neuding further wrote about the aftermath of the unrest: ‘Sweden’s descent into social unrest is a remarkable development in what was once one of Europe’s most stable societies. It is a development that other western countries would be wise to watch very closely, in order not to repeat the same mistakes.


Popular Posts