2013 Stockholm Riots: a brief overview

Emin Poljarevic

 

The riots have exhausted their destructive energy sweeping through several of Stockholm’s suburbs. In the northern suburb of Husby where the unrests started, the rioting lasted from Sunday evening, May 19 until Wednesday, May 22. Several other Stockholm suburbs, similar to Husby, 23 in total, experienced unrest albeit on the smaller scale. These suburbs are primarily inhabited by a second and third generation immigrants as well as newly arrived immigrant residents many of those have fled from the devastating conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The unrests were primarily been expressed through burning of a large number of private cars followed by stone throwing on the arriving police units and the fire fighters. Curiously, this seemingly senseless wave of destruction of cars did not include burning shops or residential buildings in any direct way, nor did it include looting of stores and local shops. The reasons behind the riots are certainly complex and multifaceted, nevertheless, deeply rooted in segregation manifested in a range of socio-economic parameters.

 

Many of the local residents, especially the younger generations have been experiencing higher rates of unemployment in comparison to other residential areas of Stockholm both in relative and real terms. Subsequently, the media and public perception that the crime rates as being higher in these areas has effected the law enforcement strategies which had become stricter and more violent over the course of years. It is reported that during the recent period the police has started to stop-and-search a large number of teenagers in Husby and neighbouring suburbs as a strategy to disrupt narcotics distribution and consumption. This strategy included a controversial policing method, which increasingly targeted teenagers without previous criminal record through which the authorities frequently conducted house searches thus intensely invading people’s privacy on weak or non-existent ground. This is something that would be unimaginable in the more exclusive suburbs. It is during one of the police-raids in Husby that a police officer shot and killed an aggressive 68-year old man (May 13), which was later interpreted as a flagrant brutality by the neighbours and residents in the area. The 29-year-old officer has also been placed under investigation for the alleged overuse of violence during the incident. Numerous witnesses have also complained of open racism among a number of police officers that had used racial slurs when addressing young people in the suburbs. Such incidents are readily narrated and certainly overstressed in conversations adding to the collective frustrations. These and other similar fragments of perceived grievances are easily detectable however they are insufficient to explain the reason behind the rioting.

 

For instance, it is impossible to disregard that the rate of unemployment in Husby is 8,8% while it is only 3,3% in the city of Stockholm, or that the average salary in Husby is 195,000 SEK/year (€21,600/year) before taxes, while its equivalent in the city of Stockholm is 68% higher. Is this sufficient to explain the causes behind rioting? It is unlikely, to say the least. Nevertheless, one needs to keep in mind that in a welfare state of the Swedish model there has been a traditional focus on (economic and social) equality involving the welfare of children and young people expectation on the state/municipalities to deliver a high standard of civic services is high. Public places of gathering, such as parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities and municipal public facilities are some of the areas where the current (centre-right) government has, if not neglected, but seriously mismanaged. A deep sense of distrust and neglect is what can be heard from some of the young people in the suburbs, “we will continue until we are noticed”. In addition, many of the residents, including the young rioters, understood the prime minister’s (Fredrik Reinfeldt) choice not to go to Husby or any other affected areas to address the people there as the confirmation of being neglected.

 

Another important component behind the rioting in the suburbs is an element of hooliganism directly related criminal activities of a substantial number of rioters (30-100). A well-known Professor of Criminology at the University of Stockholm, Jerzy Sarnecki, commented that there are a thousand reasons for the “bad boys” to start rioting, however, their activities are fundamentally criminal. The group dynamic often triggers more and more audacious behaviour that assumes a destructive logic of its own and that is often replicated by other impudent groups of young individual males. This is also shown by the number of arrested youth, which topped 44 individuals within a week of the start of the unrests. Out of 44 young males, an overwhelming majority was “known to the police” as having criminal records adding some strength to the previous assertion. A social activists and resident of Husby, said that one of the instigators of violent attacks on the police has long been a trouble–maker in the area, involved in an assortment of criminal activity with an extensive network of contacts among the youth in northern Stockholm (reported to the author June 2). Moreover, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) has reported that there have been a substantial number of left-wing extremists who had participated in the unrests (i.e. stone-throwing on the police). This indicates that there has been a presence of both “professional” demonstrators and individuals with extensive criminal records adding to the complexity of these events.

 

But, where does Islam, fit in this overview? It is not unreasonable to assume that a large part of the residents are either from or have family ties to the Muslim majority societies. There is no official statistic over religious affiliation of Swedish citizens; nevertheless, the assumption is based on a large number of media sources and field research of a small number of academics in this area. First reactions of various community leaders that I spoke to expressly condemn the behaviour of the rioters, regardless of their faith. I gathered from several Friday sermons that the violence in the suburbs is condemned and viewed as a failure of the (Muslim) community in their efforts to engage the young individuals in more constructive endeavours. This can be translated into a notion that community leaders’ inability to create group activities interesting and exciting enough to attract those young people in the “risk zone” of “behaving badly” (author’s interviews with Muslim community leaders in Stockholm and Uppsala, May 26-June 2, 2013).

 

The Swedish mainstream media has not given any attention to the “religious factor” as an explanation for the unrests focusing instead its analysis on the related subject – integration. The articles and various interpretations in the newspaper articles and columns are riddled with statements such as “integration has failed” or “more is needed to carry the integration process forward”. If one is to believe these readings it is easy to argue that there are structural mechanisms that need attention and calibration to correct the “failures” (of integration process). This part of the explanation includes discrimination and segregation of immigrants and/or their descendants (i.e. second and third generation), which is being introduced into the policy agenda of both the government and the opposition. The mainstream political debate is therefore becoming increasingly focused on how to improve the system to come to a set of solutions that will defuse the risks of recurrence of the recent riots. The debate effectively excludes religion as any relevant element of recent rioting.

 

The only people linking Islam and Muslims directly as causes to the suburban upheavals are the extreme-right parties, including the Swedish Democrats – the only far-right party represented in the Swedish parliament, and its supporters. Virtual discussion forums, blogs and commentaries are riddled with “politically incorrect” arguments claiming to have “proved” their long-held convictions that the Muslims are in Sweden to essentially take over the country (e.g. Eurabia conspiracy etc.). Some more radical groups among the right wing extremists and neo-Nazi activists had attempted to organize “citizen militias” in order to patrol the outskirts of the affected suburbs thus assisting the police. Nevertheless, their efforts were either disrupted by the police or disbanded due to the organisational incoherence.

 

Now, in the end of the violent rioting, there is an upsurge of civil engagement in searching for long-term solutions to the youth-crisis. Secular and religious associations are coming together to discuss the recent violence and various strategies. Local residents, parents, groups of mothers and large numbers of young people seem to have realized that only they themselves can contribute to provide positive attitude and care for the disenfranchised youth, but also contribute to the improvement of the negative effects of segregation, racism and the perceived government neglect. At the moment we see several attempts to form neighbourhood committees and public forums through which both parents and teenagers are supposed to exchange both experiences and ideas about how to move forward. Religious communities are certainly highly important in this evolving process.

 

Keywords: Stockholm riots, Husby, Youth violence, Integration, Racism

 

 

“Riots – day by day” – “Upploppen – dag för dag” (Dagens Nyheter – Daily News)

http://www.dn.se/sthlm/upploppen-dag-for-dag

 

“The Police’s drug bust may have contributed to the riots” – “Polisens knarkinsats kan ha bidragit till upploppen” (Metro) http://www.metro.se/stockholm/polisens-knarkinsats-kan-ha-bidragit-till-upploppen/EVHmeE!21yn93g8g2zYY/

 

“The Police practical manual might have prevented the riots in Husby” – “Polisens handbok kunde stoppat upplopp i Husby” (Metro)

www.metro.se/nyheter/polisens-handbok-kunde-stoppat-upplopp-i-husby/EVHmeE!GrekMC9XyROzQ/

 

A Police officer is suspected of negligence – a 69-year-old died” – “Polis misstänks ha varit klantig – 69-åringen dog” (Nyheter24 – News24) nyheter24.se/nyheter/kronikor/746823-polisen-misstanks-ha-varit-klantig-69-aringen-dog

 

“Unrest in 23 places in Stockholm” – “Oroligheter på 23 platser i upploppens Stockholm” (Svenska Dagbladet – Swedish Daily News) www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_8207046.svd

 

“A survey on rioting in Stockholm’s suburbs” – “Undersökning om upploppen i Stockholms förorter” (Demoskop – Public Opinion Nalysis) www.demoskop.se/aktuellt/nyhet/undersokning-om-upploppen-i-stockholms-fororter/

 

“We will continue until we get noticed” – “Vi håller på tills vi blir sedda” (Svensk Television – Swedish Public Television)

http://www.svt.se/nyheter/sverige/forskaren-vastra-stockholm-ar-i-niva-med-rosengard

 

“If I see teenagers, I send them home” – “Ser jag tonåringar ute skickar jag hem dem” (Expressen – www.expressen.se/nyheter/dokument/ser-jag-tonaringar-ute-skickar-jag-hem-dem/

 

“After the Husby-riots, the police has been reported (for negligence) – by the police” – “Efter Husby-upploppen: Nu anmäls polisen – av polisen” (Nyheter24 – News24)

http://nyheter24.se/nyheter/inrikes/746347-efter-upploppen-i-husby-nu-anmals-polisen-av-polisen

Four are convicted for terrorist plot

2012-06-11

 

Four men from Sweden have been convicted on the basis of terrorist plot in Denmark. They were supposedly conspiring to attack the offices of the newspaper   Jyllands-Posten with weapons. The attack was planned to take place at the building that houses the two major newspapers, Jyllands-Posten and Politiken, just days before the New Year’s Eve 2010.

 

The men were arrested on December 29th 2010, three of them in Copenhagen and the fourth in Stockholm. Both Swedish (SÄPO) and Danish (PET) intelligence services have followed the three men traveling the entire car trip from Stockholm to Copenhagen. Prior to that the police has had the four men under surveillance for a long period of time. The fourth man, who stayed in Stockholm after deciding to discontinue the journey was convicted by as well.

 

According to the director of PET, Jakob Scharf, the men were only hours away from attacking the offices of the newspaper(s). according to the information given by the police, the men had an automatic weapon, a handgun and 200  of so called PlastiCuffs. A large amount of material used as evidence has been presented throughout the trial. The Prosecutor has relied heavily on hours of recordings from police surveillance of a Stockholm apartment where the attack have seemingly been planned. The recordings indicate that the men had planned to cause maximum destruction with their attack. All of them are between 31 and 46 years of age and according to the Prosecutor the men planned the attack as a part of a reprisal plot against the newspapers’ distribution of the so called Muhammed Caricatures.

 

All of the men have been sentenced to 12 years in prison, a highest possible sentence in this type of cases. The Prosecutor wanted the sentence to be extended between 14 and 16 years.

Female islamologist in Sweden demands female power

17 May 2012

The men have the power, and they misinterpret Islam. That is the opinion of islamologist and feminist Suad Mohamed. She now demands that the mosques give way to educated female imams.

The out-of-date mosque representatives screened in the last week’s investigative program shocked Suad Mohamed. “The men who occupy these positions (as counselors) have much power. People come to them every day for advice. For that reason it is important to have educated and knowledgeable people who receive these people (in need). Not someone who takes us back to the Medieval period,” she told TT (news agency).

Suad Mohamed believes that the men in the report are bad representatives of Muslim and that they are ill-informed. “Nowhere in the Koran is violence and maltreatment (of women) preached. If they read about the Prohpet’s life, they will be able to find that he never, ever hit any of the women nor children.” She further argues that Islam is not a religion which degrades women. The degradation had instead appeared when men had interpreted the religion and translated (this interpretation) into law(s). She continues, “there are women who understand the religion and who can resist these men who misuse the religion, or who can become fanatical. Knowledge is power and often it is the men who are educated.”

Suad Mohamed, further argues that the conservative men, not the religion, creates problems. “The young men who occupy the positions of power within the various congregations are the children of the ruling patriarchs. They take over the ruling positions much like the way has been in the Arab world.”

According to Suad Mohamed, the men want to maintain this advantage over women and often reference weak or fabricated (a)hadith, the recorded advice allegedly uttered by the Prophet Muhammed. She argues that they should instead refer to the Koran.

She was once called herself the first female imam in Sweden. However, she realized that no one would hire her and gave up that title. She welcomes the investigative report’s (Uppdrag granskning) disclosure and she hopes that this will lead to changes.

 

About Suad Mohamed:

 A 43 year-old Ethiopian mother of four living in Sweden. She is a pre-school teacher working in Huddinge (Stockholm) and has been trained in Islamic studies at a university in Jordan. The Swedish media frequently consult Suad on controversial issues concerning the Muslim community in Sweden. She is not a representative of any known Muslim organizations; nevertheless, until recently she titled herself an imam (usually interpreted as a [religious] leader of a community). Now she describes herself as an islamologist and a Muslim feminist.

6 out of 10 mosques gave counsel contrary to the law

May 16-17, 2012

 

Two undercover women with niqab (face veil) approached Sweden’s ten largest mosques equipped with hidden cameras in order to inquire about issues of polygamous marriages, domestic maltreatment, and nonconsensual marital sex. Aired by the Swedish state television’s (SVT) controversial investigative program Uppdrag granskning (Mission Scrutiny) showed that the mosque representatives gave advices which were contrary to the Swedish laws.

 

In six out of the ten visited mosques the woman who posed as maltreated by her husband who had married several wives received advice not to report her husband to the police. The woman was accompanied by another veiled woman, a hidden camera equipped reporter, who posed as her supportive friend. In one mosque the answer was too vague to call either way, in another there was a conflict of opinions and in two mosques the advice was to report the husband’s abuse to the authorities. The overwhelming opinion given in the mosques was that the man had right to marry several wives simultaneously under certain conditions. Only one respondent argued that polygamy is disallowed in Sweden and that the man should obey by it.

 

These opinions and advice were given either by imams at these mosques or by someone who had a role as a family counselor. The host of the SVT program, a well-know reporter, Janne Josefsson, approached the two biggest mosques (in Stockholm and Uppsala) with the recordings from the women’s visit the official stand-point on issues of domestic abuse was that the mosques must abide by the Swedish law in these issues. In Uppsala, the chairman of the association disassociated himself from the person who gave the advice to the woman not to report her husband. It was later reported that the supposed imam in Uppsala was only a occasional lecturer at the mosque and not the regular imam or representative of the mosque. The recording from the program showed the man in Uppsala instructs the woman not to report her husband to the police but instead to seek solution to their problems between themselves. At one point he asked her to approach her husband through an apology, that is if she had done something wrong.

 

In Stockholm, the women had met with an imam who defended the general right of a husband to marry more than one wife and advised the supposedly maltreated woman not to report the incident to the authorities. The recording in this case showed that he had suggested to the woman to increase her efforts in showing affection to her husband, this after she claimed that she loved her husband very much and did not intend on leaving him in any case. He said among other things, “Do not deny him your love so he might change (to be kinder).” After seeing the recording showed to them by the program host, the board of trustees of the organization in charge of the Stockholm’s main mosque chose to start an internal investigation in regard to the reported counsel given by the imam.

 

Mohammad Fazlhashemi, a professor of history of ideas at the University in Umeå argues that the program had showed that several of the imams have given advice which clearly goes against the Swedish law. He himself was featured in the program as commentator of these events by reading written transcripts of the conversations from these various mosques. “What these men (imams) had said to the women clearly violates their human rights”, he adds. He is strongly critical of the imams (in the program) who do not follow the Swedish legislation. He links the alleged violations with some of these mosques receiving government approved financial support. “As the mosques have received state support they have also acknowledged their obligation to follow Swedish law and the basic democratic principles.” He continues, “Now there is a need for self-examination. They need to clean up.” Mohammad Fazlhashemi, himself a Muslim, believes that the outmoded mosque-representatives support the anti-Muslim forces’ ideology, including the Swedish Democrats (extreme-right wing party with 20 seats in the parliament). “This confirms their hateful view of Muslims. This is extremely unfortunate that they (i.e. the six mosque representatives) live up to the Islamophobic prejudices.”

 

In the long run, Fazlhashemi argues, there needs to be a state sponsored university program for imams where religious leaders are educated giving them opportunity to expand their competences in fields of feminism, democracy, legislation etc.

 

Omar Mustafa, the chairman of the board in Islamic Council of Sweden, and Mahmoud Khalfi, the chairman of the board in Swedish Imam Council have been quick to distance themselves from the controversial statements made by the mosque representatives and reported in the program. Omar Mustafa said that “It has been incredibly scary, the things that came up. It is unacceptable to defend violence against women, regardless if we look at the Swedish law or the Islamic values.” He continued, “Force, violence, oppression and fear are inconsistent with the goals of a marriage.” Mahmoud Khalfi, an imam himself, agrees, “Everything (marital relationship) is built on respect and love. Force and violence have no place in the relationship. This is what we lecture and preach about constantly.”

 

Omar Mustafa’s personal view is that the men who appeared in the program need to be investigated without delay. “It needs to be clear up if these men are guilty of any criminal or/and (professional) misconduct and in case of any violations it is necessary to take necessary measures. However, he is also critical of the tone taken in the program. “They (the program editors) paint a picture that Muslims give conflicting messages (i.e. hypocritical stance). It strives to show that Muslims have two agendas, one public and one private. It (the tone and approach in the program) feels awfully conspiratorial.” Mahmoud Khalfi adds, ”Our official version is always that which we believe in and the message that we preach. However, there are individuals who commit mistakes.”

 

Additionally, in the light of these recent controversies the Islamic Council of Sweden writes on its webpage (http://islamiskaforbundet.se/sv/), that believing Muslim have “religious duty to respect and obey the country’s laws”. The Council also writes that one of its primary goals is to “work for the human rights”.

 

Five of the ten mosques (out of about 145 registered mosques in Sweden) featured in the program Uppdrag granskning (Mission Scrutiny) were regular recipients of governmental financial support: Uppsala Mosque, Stockholm Mosque, malmö Salsabil mosque, and the mosque in Järfälla. The Örebro Mosque had received this type of support earlier, however, due to unrelated administrative misconduct; the support was temporarily suspended, this according to Åke Gustavsson, the Secretary General at the Commission for Governmental Support to Religious Communities.

Religions cooperate for social work

Different religious communities frequently organize various social projects. There is a general discussion taking place during an ongoing conference how to run these social projects across the religious boundaries. One such unique project has been initiated in Sweden.

Diakonia (ex. The Church’s various forms of responsibility) is a well known concept in the context of churchly activities. But, diapraxis, who knows about that? The word is thrown out several times during the conference session termed “Religion and social work” taking place this week in Stockholm. Here, different religions are discussed in hope of finding ways to cooperate within the framework of shared understanding of social services. The word diapraxis is frequently used as to identify this particular form of cooperation. This cooperation praxis (i.e. diapraxis) has already been established between several religious communities initially supportive of inter-faith dialog. A Swedish Church pastor and the project leader for ‘House of God’ Henrik Larsson points out “when we talk of inter-faith dialogue there is a stage where you must do things together”. The ‘House of God’ project in Fisksätra (Stockholm) is a frequently publicised building project where protestant-catholic church will be built under the same roof as a (Sunni) mosque. Initial inter-faith dialogue has thereby evolved into a practical building project where one building houses several different religious places of worship, albeit separated by a hallway and walls.

“Jyllands-Posten – where is that?”

13 April, 2012

GLOSTRUP. In his black Adidas jacket and short haircut Sahbi Zalouti looks more like a member of an MC-clib than an Islamic terrorist. He does not deny that he and the others sat in his home and discussed terror plans against “that newspaper with Muhammad-drawings.”

 

Leaned over the microphone he says: ”It was just talk. Nothing would have happened in reality.”

 

Zalouti was the only one out of the four suspects who was cross-examined in the court’s first day in Glostrup outside Copenhagen. He argued for his innocence as being the one who was dragged into something he knew nothing about. He was just an interlocutor. Not a participant.

“For me there was no talk of doing anything in reality. The whole thing was just idealistic talk. When I heard that my friends have been arrested with weapons I froze like a statue. I am a Muslim. Yes, I am religious. Yes. Am I a terrorist? No. I would never go a shoot people.”

Zalouti smiles interchangeably and comments angrily at the interrogator. At moments he strokes apologetically over the interpreters back with his left hand. It is difficult to discern if this is a spontaneous gesture or if this is something he does to appear as soft-minded and friendly.

The weapon was found in a rented car.

He admits without any hesistation that he had a weapon in his apartment in Frihetsvägen i Järfälla [Stockholm]. He points to another defendant Mounir Dhahri as the one who tookmthe weapon to his apartment. “I said I did not want weapons at my place.” Dhahri sits about ten meters away and gazes over on his former friend. His jaws are clenched.

The prosecutor displays an automatic rifle with a silencer for the court and the journalists in the courtroom. I do not want to claim that there was a breeze blowing though the room, but it was striking. Zalouti acknowledges that this is the same gun that he had in his apartment. “Dhahiri said that the weapon was not functional.”

The prosecutor claims that with this weapon and a handgun that the three defendents planed to storm the Jyllands-Posten’s editorial in central Copenhagen and kill as many people as possible. This would have been a revenge for caricatures which were published in 2005.

The weapon was found in a rented car which was used by the men who drove it to Copenhagen on the night of December 29, 2010. What they did not know is that the police had recorded every meter of their trip from Stockholm. The prosecutor shows survailance images of the car passing the Öresund Bridge at 02.02h. An hour later they had arrived to an apartment at Mörkhöjvej 92 in the Copenhagen suburb Herslev.

They were observed by the police even here. The prosecutor displays another surveillance video from the apartment there the men prepared to go to bed. While they sleep, the police search their car and finds, besides the weapons, ammunition and two plastic bags filled with cable ties. The bags have the fingerprints from the defendants. Cable ties can be used to tie people up.

The prosecutor displays a bag of cable ties in the courtroom. On the court’s big screen we can see a receipt from a Bauhaus store in Järfälla and a surveillance image of what appears to be one of the defendants buying cable ties couple of hours before departing to Copenhagen.

The score of evidences is demonstrated after searches made in the apartment in Herslev. In a jacket they found 20 000 dollars. In another jacket, a map and ammunition rounds. 36 rounds in total. The evidences supporting the charge that the men planned to carry out an attack is convincing. The proceedings take place in room 404 on the top floor of the Glostrup district court. Outside there is a helicopter hovering the building. Many policemen gurd the front and back entrances. There is a metal detector at the door of the courtroom. I’m thoroughly searched before entering the room. This is far more thorough search than at the airport.

The prosecutor plays a sound file from an mp3player which was seized during the arrests. An Arabic speaking voice proclaims something with songs in the background. On the screen in front the translation rolls: “The have declared war and enmity against us. What are we waiting for?” The voice intones. ”With the sword do we follow the enemies and strike them down.”

Wolfgang Hansson (A US- and Foreign Correspondent for Aftonbladet)

Tribute to Stockholm Suicide Bomber

17 Feb 2011

In its latest issue the jihadist magazine “Inspire” pays tribute to the Stockholm suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab. “That he lived a comfortable life and had a wife and children did not stop Taimour Abdulwahab from responding to the call to jihad (holy war),” Inspire wrote, adding, “We need more like him.”

“We are following this closely. It is a threat on an inspiration level,” says Malena Rembe of the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO), and states that it could be “an impetus for individuals who have already crossed the line between word and deed.”

The article continues, “the Swedes seem to have set out to show its dislike of Muslims and are eager to join the league of nations that are hostile to Islam and Muslims. This operation can serve as a reminder to the Swedish government and people to reconsider their position before their list of crimes against us are too long and it is too late.” According to Svenska dagbladet (SvD) revenge for the drawing by artist Lars Vilks of Muhammad as a roundabout dog has become the common denominator of violent Islamic extremism in Sweden.

Magnus Ranstorp, Research Director of the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College, says it’s not the first time that Sweden appears in Inspire, which has previously referenced Vilks and Nerikes Allehanda’s editor Ulf Johansson.

To be mentioned in this context is never good, Ranstorp added. “It is an important magazine with direct links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Whatever pops up in it is serious,” he said. Such an article can “provide individuals with a extremist bent a push onto the path. Young people think this is cool, it is the ultimate form of rebellion against Western society,” he added.

Swedish Parliament Debated Violent Extremism

28 Jan 2011

Wednesday January 27 the Swedish riksdag (parliament) held a debate about violent extremism, initiated by the far-right populist Sweden democrats (SD). SD leader Jimmie Åkesson started the debate off with a reference to the Stockholm suicide bombing in December 2010. He argued that the attack wasn’t an isolated event, pointing to the Swedes suspected of planning a terror attack on a Danish newspaper, as well as two Swedes of Somali descent who have been convicted of planning terror crimes. According to Åkesson, the debate in Sweden about Islamic extremism has been muffled, and because of political correctness there is no room to criticize Islam.

While Åkesson wanted to solely discuss Islamic extremism, ministers from the rest of the parties wanted to take this as an opportunity to discuss all sorts of extremist violence in Sweden, not just Islamic. For instance the case of a man who shot at a great number of individuals of foreign origin in Malmö in 2010, leaving many severely injured and in at least one case dead. Åkesson was annoyed by this comparison, and meant this had nothing to do with terrorism.

Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask countered by warning that one shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the Stockholm suicide bombing. “Sweden is an open society where people can have different backgrounds and religious convictions and live side by side,” she said. “There are people who refuse to accept the foundations of our society and who are ready to hurt others to have their way,” she continues. The government is currently reviewing its strategy for how best to prevent extremism from taking root in Sweden, the minister said.

At the debate, as well as in an op-ed published the day before, Åkesson called for a national action plan for fighting terrorism, arguing for laws that prohibit people from traveling abroad to participate in terrorist training camps. He also called for a closer examination of young muslims’ attitudes toward Islamism, saying that Islamism as such must be surveyed and combated.

In response to this Ask said that Sweden already has a national action plan and, in addition to that, co-operates with the EU in anti-terror operations. Then the Green Party’s Maria Ferm warned against increased right of surveillance.”If we give up a little of our freedom for a little more security, we risk losing both,” she said. She also held Åkesson responsible for collectively blaming Sweden’s Muslim population for the atrocity of one man. She cited statistics holding that only 0.34 percent of European terror attacks are carried out by Islamic extremists, while the greater numbers are the deeds of left-wing and right-wing extremists.

Sven-Erik Österberg, head of the Social Democrats’ parliamentary group, said the problem with “Muslim extremism” should not be overstated, but not ignored either. He said the Social Democrats want to co-operate with Muslims on this matter. But he also stated that those who take up the fight against extremism need our support against all forms of extremism”.

Johan Pehrsson of the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) called for more resources and better measures for helping young people who want to leave extremist groups. Lena Olsson from the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) criticized Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats’ approach to the debate. “Listening to the Sweden Democrats and their xenophobic solutions is like listening to a guitar with only one string,” she said.

Most commentators concluded after the debate that the Sweden Democrats lost, that they forced open doors and that the established political parties kept together, across party lines, against the Sweden Democrats wanting to make it an anti-Muslim event, rather than an open debate on violent extremism.

Interview with Jimmie Åkesson on BBC Hard Talk:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/9372832.stm

Swedish suicide bomber trained in Iraq?

In an interview in the TV channel al-Arabiya, based in the United Arab Emirates, General Zia Kanani, head of the Iraqi anti-terrorism unit, said the Swedish suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab was trained in Iraq for three months preceding the bombing in Stockholm in December 2010.

Kanani said this information was obtained from a detained Islamist and that the anti-terrorist unit had warned US intelligence of a possible attack in the United States, Europe or Britain.”

In Abdulwahab’s alleged will, posted on an Islamist website shortly after the attack, he announces the Al-Qaeda front group in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, and says he “has fulfilled what it promised you.”
The Swedish Secret Police say they are aware of this information being spread in Arabic media, but have got no further comments.

Swedes arrested for planning terrorist crime in Denmark

Three out of four men arrested in Denmark December 29, suspected of planning an attack on the newspaper JyllandsPosten in Copenhagen, came from Sweden. And later a fifth man connected to the plot against the Danish newspaper, which published the Muhammad cartoons five years back, was arrested in Stockholm.

The arrest was preceded by intelligence work by as well the Swedish (SÄPO) and the Danish (PET) Secret Police. According to Jacob Scharf at PET, Several of the suspects could be described “as militant Islamists with connections to international terror networks.” Danish justice minister Lars Barfoed said in a comment that the arrest prevented what could have been the most serious attack to ever occur in Denmark. One suspects that the plan was to try to gain access to JyllandsPosten’s office building and to try to shot as many as possible, and maybe also take hostages.

The arrested men are a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background, a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, a 30-year-old Swede and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker. The first three were all living in Sweden and travelled to Denmark overnight in a rented car. SÄPO had the men under surveillance and followed them all the way to Copenhagen, where they were arrested as soon as they connected to the man living there.

“We learned that people in Sweden were planning a terror crime in Denmark. We’ve known about it for several months. These people are known to the police in Sweden. We contacted our Danish colleagues. We’ve had people under intense surveillance,” SÄPO head Anders Danielsson said on Wednesday.

One of the men arrested in Denmark, a 29-year-old Swede of Lebanese decent, have been arrested two times earlier. In 2007 he was arrested in Somalia together with several other Swedes, including his then 17-year-old fiancée, on suspicions of having fought on the side of Islamic forces in the ongoing battle in Somalia. He was also arrested once in Pakistan two years later. Also detained were, again, his fiancé and the couple’s toddler son, and Mehdi Ghezali. Ghezali is a former inmate of the US-operated Guantánamo Bay prison, who was released in 2004.

Also the man arrested in Stockholm in connection to the plot against JyllandsPosten in Copenhagen has a previous record. He was arrested in Pakistan last year and spent 10 days in a Pakistani prison for having entered the country illegally. According to Säpo, the man was involved in the planning of the Copenhagen attack, but decided to remain in Stockholm for reasons as yet unknown.

Helena Benaouda, head of Swedens Muslim Council and mother of the former fiancé of one of the now arrested men commented Friday 31 December on the arrests as follows:

“My attitude is and has always been that crime, all kind of extremism and use of violence or undemocratic means are unacceptable. I believe in an open society where individuals have both rights and responsibilities, where everyone – regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and age are equal and where all should participate. Violent criminal activity and terrorism is an attack against such a society, and against everything I believe in, including my religious faith, Islam. Myself, like everyone else, must take the threat of extremism – including Islamic extremism – in earnest to protect what I believe in. The police investigation will show who is to be held accountable, and the guilty will be punished. My daughter and her children are safe with me – and that is what is most important to me.”