Great Increase in Xenophobic Web Pages in Sweden

22 August

According to a new report, presented by the Living History Forum (Forum för levande historia), Jews and Muslims wearing apparent religious symbols are subjected to significant discrimination in Sweden and the number of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic web sites have, according to figures originally presented by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, almost doubled since 2007. Today the number of xenophobic web pages is estimated to approximately 15.000.

Even so, minister of integration Erik Ullenhag, wrote in a statement following the report that “Sweden as a whole is a tolerant country, but we cannot close our eyes to the fact that racism is growing and is being professionalized on the internet. There is today a small but growing minority that harbours hatred against Muslims and Jews.” Therefore Swedish authorities must further their knowledge about what causes hate against these groups to grow and how the trend can be turned.

On these web pages the Jewish group is often imagined as world conspirators whereas the Muslim group is seen as occupiers, using mass-immigration and rising nativity figures “Islamizing the West”. According to estimations the Jewish community in Sweden consists of some 20,000 individuals and the Muslim community of 300,000. Crime statistics presented in the report mentions 161 reports of crimes with anti-Semitic motives and 272 with Islamophobic motives in 2010. These figures are, however, based on police reports and there may be many more unrecorded cases.

This is confirmed by as well Omar Mustafa, chairman of the Islamic Union in Sweden (IFiS) as bt Lena Posner-Körösi, chairman of the Jewish Central Council in Sweden (JC). They both claim that their members don’t report hate crime out of resignation or fear.

Reactions on the Carnage in Norway

29 July

Much of this week’s news in Norway and Sweden has dealt with the Islamophobic discourse inspiring Anders Behring Breivik’s acts of terror and manifesto. The manifesto published online by Breivik just hours before the detonation in Oslo and the massacre at Utøya borrows extensively from, amongst others, the UNA bomber Theodore Kaczynski, and so called “Anti jihadists” such as Bat Ye’or (Gisèle Littman), Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Littman, Geller and Spencer have rejected all responsibility for inspiring the Norwegian terrorist and claim that these accusations are a strategy used by “the Leftists” to silence all critique of Islam.

 

Similar reactions have been seen and heard amongst right wing populists and Islam critics in Norway and Sweden. Apparently Breivik was a member of the right wing populist party Fremskrittspartiet (FrP), focusing most of its politics and rhetoric against multiculturalism and, especially Muslim, immigration. Two days after the detonation in Oslo and the shooting spree at Utøya, Siv Jensen, leader of FrP, announced that she thought the atrocities executed by Behring Breivik was horrible, but that “the fact that some media wants to find a connection between Anders Behring Breivik and FrP is just as horrible.” She later claimed that she had been misunderstood. The political attack on FrP cannot in any way be compared to the killing of innocents, she said.

 

The Norwegian journalist Øyvind Strømmen, specialized in right wing extremism, has collected some of the reactions from the far right on last week’s act of terror. He shows how a number of more or less well knows bloggers and writers say they support Breivik ideologically, but reject violence and the taking of lives. But some even seem to agree also to violent methods in what is conceived as a war between “the West” and Islam. Strømmen also shows that a common opinion is that what happened is a natural reaction on immigration and Muslim presence in Norway. In the end the Muslims and their leftist allies are, according to a number of voices, to blame for what happened in Oslo and Utøya.

 

Also in Sweden similar reactions have been noticed. A number of far right wing and nationalist bloggers and politicians have stated that they reject the killings in Norway, but can support the ideological stand of Breivik. Amongst the most noticed is former Sweden Democrat (SD) Isak Nygren, today spokesperson for the Swedish Defense League. Nygren was amongst a number of persons who received the manifesto in an email sent directly from Anders Behring Breivik himself, less than two hours before the detonation in Oslo. On his blog Nygren states that he to some extent does agree with Breivik ideologically, but does not support his methods:

 

Even though this terrorist is anti-Islam, anti-Multicultralism and so on, like me, I don’t really have something in common with this guy. I don’t support violence.

 

Another Sweden Democrat, Erik Hellsborn, received national attention writing on his blog that “Islamisation” and “multiculturalism” more than anything else lies behind the carnage in Norway. “In a Norwegian Norway this would never have happened.” The blog post was later removed after pressure from party members.

 

Yet another noticeable strategy amongst fellow right wing extremists is to claim that Breivik is to be regarded insane, and that the acts of terror are not ideologically informed. Some has also tried to find other discourses which, rather than the Islamophobic or nationalist, can explain the reasons why. Another member of the Sweden Democrats, Thomas Karlsén, claims Behring Breivik was used as a tool in the hands of the Freemasons, conspiring against the world. Asked to clarify his statement by EXPO, a Swedish magazine covering issues regarding racism, nationalist and right wing extremism, Karlsén says: “You are fucking retards. It is you that’s behind what has fucking happened!” Karlsén seems to think that the journalists at EXPO, as representatives of “the Left”, can somehow be held responsible because of them wanting to “put the lid on all critique against Islam”.

 

In an online article EXPO claims that the ideological stands of Anders Behring Breivik are reflected by the politics of the Sweden Democrats (SD). By comparing statements and blog posts on “the islamisation in Europe” by leading Sweden Democrats, to quotes from Breivik’s manifesto they want to show how it is all part of the same Islamophobic ideology.

 

Jimmie Åkesson, leader of SD, as well as Kent Ekeroth, the party’s international secretary, is enraged that media and “the Left,” by their understanding, are using the atrocities in Norway to silence “the discussion about the failed politics of immigration and integration.” Both are wound up by having their own ideological stands compared to those expressed in the manifesto of Behring Breivik, and claim there is no connection between the two. “It is a fact,” writes Ekeroth, “that Breivik does not have anything to do with the growing Islam- and immigration-critic movement what so ever.”

Voices have also been heard, as well in Norway as in Sweden, that the secret police has been focusing too much on possible threats from Muslim terrorism, neglecting the far right and nationalist extremism, and demands are put forward that these milieus are to be more carefully investigated and supervised.

State Funding to Controversial Muslim Congregation

July 15

Per Gudmundsson, journalist and Swedens foremost Islamist watcher, reported this week that the so called Sweden Imam Association (SIF) – who 2009 received state funding to work against Islamphobia – represents the homepage muslim.se where one, among other things, can read that homosexuals are to be killed, Muslims are not to befriend non-Muslims, and that there is a Jewish conspiracy running the world.

Sweden Imam Association answers on their homepage that they never have threatened anyone, but only made use of their fundamental right of free speech and that a democracy much be able to accept a variety of conflicting opinions.

Two Imams are named on muslims: Sheikh Abu Ra’d – Imam at Gävle Islamic Center and a student of the former grand mufti of Saudi Arabia Ibn Baz – and Abu Talal, imam in Göteborg with an educational background in Egypt.

Demonstrations against mosque in Göteborg

21 May 2011

Protests against a new mosque in Göteborg attracted approximately 150 nationalist and far right wing protesters, and maybe 300 people supporting the mosque. Amongst the initiators of the demonstration against the mosque was Björn Cederström of the newly started Defense Corps for Sweden’s Self-defense. In his speech at the rally he said Muslims force native Swedes to flee their own country and that we must prepare for civil war. Marc Abrahamsson of the National Democrats said Sweden is being occupied by Arabs and Muslims.

There were also representatives from the English Defense League present, while the Swedish Defense League was not allowed to participate as Cederström regards them as being “too Zionistic”.

The demonstrations resulted in quite a rumble and four persons were arrested by the police.

 

Two terrorist Suspects will be judged at the National Court

The Islamist terrorist suspects Wissam Ayachine and Abdelkader Lotfi will be judged at the National Court, for inciting to radical activism and providing information over the Internet.

The two suspects raised funds from the North African community in Burgos, Madrid and Palencia and sent funds on ten occasions between 2003 and 2007 with amounts ranging between 100 and 750 euros to Bouchaib Magher, a “brother in jail” and leader of the cell, arrested on December 30, 2002.

Both were engaged in indoctrinating others and maintained contact with other cells of Sweden and Denmark through the Internet, also inciting jihad and exchanged information on the manufacture of explosives and provided two links to learn how to make bombs and mines.

March, 6/2011

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

Fatwa Council founded in Sweden

24 Jan 2011

A group of about 10-12 imams in Malmö have founded a Swedish Fatwa Council. The council is set up to be able to present Swedish Muslims with more unanimous answers to questions concerning how to practice Islam is Sweden in harmony with Swedish law and culture.

Jonas Otterbeck, assistant professor of Islamic Studies, Lund University, believes they have got a difficult task in front of them, but that it’s a brave initiative to try to find answers which can appeal to a majority of Sweden’s diverse Muslim population.

Some of the larger Muslim congregations and mosques in Sweden are not allied with the Fatwa council, which might complicate their work.

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.”

Swedish Secret Police Publishes Report on Islamism in Sweden

December 15, 2010

In the beginning of 2010, the Swedish Secret Police (SÄPO) was assigned by the Swedish government to investigate and describe “violence inclined Islamist extremism in Sweden, discernable processes of radicalization in violence inclined Islamist environments in Sweden, and tools and strategies to be used in obstructing radicalization.”

The report was finally published December 15, just four days after the suicide bombing – classed as a terrorist crime – in downtown Stockholm. In the report “violence inclined Islamist extremism” is defined as “activities threatening security which are Islamistically motivated, and which aims at changing the society in a non-democratic direction by the use of violence or threat of violence.” Radicalization, further, is defined as: “the process leading to a person, or a group, supporting or exercising, ideologically motivated violence to support a case.”

The report is the result of a systematic adaptation and analysis of already existing material gathered by Säpo, and it is focusing on last year (2009). But one has also made use of other publically available sources, such as other authority reports and research articles.

According to the report there are approximately 200 individuals engaged in violence inclined Islamist extremism in Sweden – even though this activity mainly pursue to support or aid terrorism in other countries, such as Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and North Africa. The only somewhat common denominator for radicalization amongst these individuals seems to be that the majority consists of men in between 15-30 years of age. Out of these 200 individuals SÄPO estimates 80 percent to have friendly bonds or other connections to each other. Not surprisingly Internet seems to be the common ground for these individuals and groups.

In the report SÄPO states that “the threat from violence inclined Islamist extremism in Sweden is currently not a threat against fundamental societal structures or the Swedish form of government.” The greatest potential threat towards Sweden, SÄPO concludes, is the long term effects of individuals travelling abroad to affiliate with violence inclined Islamist organizations.

The general conclusions of the report are that violence inclined Islamist extremism and radicalization is a reality in Sweden and must be seen as a potential threat. Presently, however, this is to be considered a limited phenomenon which is to be met with general crime preventive measures, already conducted in Sweden.