Stockholm Suicide Bombing

On the afternoon of December 11, 2010, a suicide bomber blew himself up in downtown Stockholm. The fatal blast occurred 10 minutes after a car exploded and injured two persons on a nearby street. The bombing has been defined as a terror crime by Swedish Secret Police (SÄPO).

The Suicide bomber was later identified as Taimour Abdulwahab, a 29-year old Swede of Iraqi origin who was raised in the little town of Tranås in the south of Sweden. He is married and a father of three children and had been living with his wife and three children in a house in Luton, just north of London, as recently as three weeks ago. Abdulwahab came to Sweden in 1992 and became a citizen in 1998. Since 2001 he was living in Luton, UK where he had studied to become a physical therapist and some reports suggests he became radicalized through contacts with Hizb ut-Tahrir representatives in a local mosque there. Lately he also seems to have spent some time in the Middle East – possibly Jordan – where he, according to a letter he sent out before the suicide attack – was engaged in Jihad.

He had been in Sweden for about four weeks before the bombing. The first explosion, sending two people to the hospital was set of in a car, filled with canisters of liquefied petroleum gas and fireworks. Minutes later came the other explosion on a side street, parallel to one of the main shopping streets in Stockholm. Abdulwahab had straped six bombs to his body, and was carrying a backpack filled with nails. It seems one of the bombs went off prematurely, before he was able to reach his destination (which is unknown), killing Abdulwahab himself without setting the other bombs off or injuring anyone else.

Roughly ten minutes before the explosions, Abdulwahab is to have sent an e-mail to the Swedish news agency TT and the Security Service in which he referred to the presence of Swedish troops in Afghanistan and the Swedish artist Lars Vilks’ drawing of Muhammad as a roundabout dog. The letter furthermore said: “Now will your children, daughters and sisters die the same way our brothers and sisters die? Our actions will speak for themselves. As long as you don’t end your war against Islam and degradation against the prophet and your foolish support for the pig Vilks.” The message ended with a call to “all Muhajedin in Europe and Sweden. Now is the time to strike, wait no longer. Go forward with whatever you have, even if it is a knife, and I know you have more than a knife. Fear no one, don’t fear prison, and don’t fear death.”

Monday 13 SÄPO held a press conference where they reported that the police are interviewing witnesses, conducting forensic investigations of the explosives and collecting CCTV footage from businesses in the area and from roads leading into and out of the area. Police are also processing a substantial amount of information from the general public.

“We are working around the clock. The Stockholm County Police and the National Bureau of Investigation are assisting us in this work, and we are also cooperating with British police authorities” said Anders Thornberg, head of security measures at the Swedish Security Service.

According to Chief Public Prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand at the International Public Prosecution Office in Stockholm, Abdulwahab has not previously come to the attention of the Security Service.

Based on what the police currently know, SÄPO believes that the man acted alone. “That said, we know from previous experience that this type of crime usually involves more than one individual. The attack appears to have been well-planned, and we assume that the suicide bomber had accomplices,” said Tomas Lindstrand.
However, no one else is presently suspected of any involvement in the attack.

According to Anders Thornberg, warnings similar to that sent to the Security Service and the Swedish news agency TT shortly before the attack are received by the Service almost on a daily basis. Based on current circumstances, the Security Service is not making any changes to the present terrorist threat level, which remains elevated. Threat levels are assessed on an hourly basis.

Even so Magnus Ranstorp, a security expert from the Swedish National Defence College (Försvarshögskolan), says: “Based on my experience, it’s one thing if it’s just a car fire. But to go and put together pipe bombs and sacrifice your life – I’d be very surprised if he didn’t have contact with other individuals.” Ranstorp cautioned, however, that it was too early to say whether the man who apparently blew himself up in Stockholm on Saturday has ties to any established terrorist networks.

SÄPO has received help from FBI bomb experts in their investigations. Despite the suicide attack, SÄPO has no plans to heighten Sweden’s threat level.

A number of Muslim representatives in Sweden have condemned the attack in Media. For example Imam Abd al-Haww Kielan, chairman of the Swedish Islamic Communion, said this is an act totally against Islam. Also Hassan Moussa, Imam in the central Mosque in Stockholm, condemns it is as a criminal act of terror. The organization; Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice organized a demonstration against violence in Stockholm Sunday.

There were also reactions of another kind. Alexandra Brunell, secretary to the far-right wing Sweden Democrat wrote “Is it now one can say ‘what was it we said’’ on her twitter, ending the tweet with the word “Finally”.

Also the Sweden Democrat William Petzäll was tweeting on Sunday evening: “I hate to say this, but what was it that we said?”

Tuesday the Sweden Democrats demanded a debate in Sweden’s parliament on Islamic extremism. “There is today a large public interest in a debate around these questions. People want to know how we as politicians look at Islamic extremism and what the preventive work looks like,” Party leader Jimmie Åkesson said in a statement.

Wednesday December 15 SÄPO published a report on violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden. The report was ordered by the government in 2010. On their homepage they conclude:
Violence-promoting Islamist extremism and radicalisation do exist in Sweden and should not be underestimated as potential threats. However, the currently limited occurrences of these phenomena should be countered mainly by an increased focus on preventive measures. These are the main conclusions of the report on violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden presented to Government today.

In February 2010, the Security Service was commissioned by the Government to put together an official report on violence-promoting Islamist extremism. The report contains a description of violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden, discernible radicalization processes and tools and strategies for use in countering radicalization. The overall purpose of the report is to facilitate a more balanced and informed debate on these issues.

Focus on other countries:
According to the report, there are a number of networks based on a violence-promoting Islamist extremist ideology that are currently active in Sweden. Most of these networks focus on action and propaganda against foreign troops in Muslim countries and against governments they see as corrupt and not representing what the networks consider to be the only true interpretation of Islam. Individual who are active in these networks engage in activities aiming to support and facilitate terrorist offenses mainly in other countries.
Relatively limited number of people.

The report also shows that the threat from violence-promoting Islamist extremism in Sweden is currently not a threat to the fundamental structures of society, Sweden´s democratic system or Central Government. This form of extremism may however constitute a threat to both individuals and groups.

Only a relatively limited number of people are involved in violence-promoting Islamist extremism, and the group of active members on whose actions the descriptions in this report are based consists of just under 200 individuals. There is nothing to indicate that the number of people radicalized in Sweden is growing.
The importance of preventive measures:

Violence-promoting Islamist extremism and radicalization should be countered mainly by an increasing focus on preventive measures. Given the substantial similarities in terms of how and why people radicalize, regardless of ideological affiliation, it should be possible to better coordinate preventive efforts and countermeasures targeting various extremist groups.

Experiences and knowledge gained from crime prevention initiatives in general should also play a more prominent role. Preventive work should be engaged in by actors on all levels of society — nationally, regionally as well as locally.

The whole report is possible to download (in Swedish, without an English summary) from SÄPO’s homepage: www.sapo.se

Sweden Suicide Bomber: Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly was living in Britain

12 December 2010

Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly tried to set off a car bomb packed with gas canisters in a busy shopping street in Stockholm. The car caught fire and the bomber fled the scene before blowing himself up 300yd away 15 minutes later, injuring two bystanders.
It emerged last night that Abdulwahab, who was due to turn 29 yesterday, is a former physical therapy student at Bedfordshire University in Luton, and that his wife and three young children still live in the town.
MI5 is now investigating possible links with extremists in Luton, whether the bomber was radicalised at the university and claims that he was helped by an extremist group in Yemen, the base for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Sweden Democrats Attack Muslim Politician in Rostrum

November 5, 2010

The far-right populist Sweden Democrats’ speakers William Petzäll and Kent Ekeroth attacked Islam, and especially Abdirizak Waberi from the Moderate Party, from the rostrum Wednesday 4 November.
They accused the Moderat Party of letting an Islamist into the parliament. They said it’s their duty to speak up against Islam, just as they would against any other totalitarian force, such as Communism or Nazism.
They further claimed that Waberi defends domestic violence and doesn’t agree to men and women shaking hands or dancing.
Waberi, who was not present, later commented the attack by saying he does not advocate violent acts towards women, and that he agrees to common Swedish values. Rather he thinks the Sweden Democrats talk against him just because he’s a Muslim.

Demonstration against the islamization of Sweden

Saturday June 19 the far right wing Swedish democrats’ youth organisation (SDU) arranged a demonstration in the city of Helsingborg against what they call an ‘islamization of Sweden.’ SDU warns that fifty percent of Sweden’s population will be Muslim by 2030 if the current development isn’t stopped. Daily Helsingborgs dagblad reports of a growing racism and islamophobia in the region.

Yet another drawing…

The Right wing, populist Skånepartiet (a local party active in Skåne, the most southern county of Sweden) have managed to create a buzz by using a poster showing a drawing of a naked Muhammad holding hands with a likewise naked Aisha. “Is this the kind of marriages we want in Skåne?” reads a text.

Accused of hate speech, Skånepartiets leader Carl P. Herslow says:”We’re attacking Islam, not the people believing in Islam. We consider Islam a dangerous and contagious psycho-social disease.”

More established politicians oppose Skånepartiet’s poster, and appeal to Muslims not to be provoked.

Migration and integration in Germany: The “Heroes” of Berlin-Neukölln

The “Heroes” project in Berlin is designed to help boys from Muslims families to break with traditional patriarchal behavior patterns and stand up against honor being used as a means of suppression. Regina Friedrich reports

“Heroes” meeting in Berlin, Germany (photo: © Verein Strohhalm e.V.) “Imagine my sister goes out one night and something happens to her. The neighbors would find out about it and then, no matter where I go, I can kiss my honor goodbye,” says a young guy indignantly at one of the “Heroes” workshops. “You have to decide whether you are going to keep an eye on her or lock her up – she needs a life, too, you know,” counters Deniz, one of the Berlin “Heroes”. It requires a certain amount of courage to challenge the traditional concept of honor prevailing in the Turkish community.

“Being a “Hero” means you have to take risks and that in itself is quite a risky business where we live,” explains Deniz self-confidently. The 20-year-old high-school student is one of five young men working on the “Heroes” project in the Berlin district of Neukölln.

Talking about taboos

The district is a melting pot, with people coming from over 160 countries. 40 per cent of the residents are immigrant, and in the north of Neukölln as many as 80 per cent of all people under 18 are from an immigrant background. Most of them have Turkish or Arab roots and brought their traditions and values with them from their home countries. These values and traditions very often differ from those of the Germans, especially when it comes to the roles men and women should play. This is where the “Heroes” feel they have a job to do.

Members of the “Heroes” group (photo: © Verein Strohhalm e.V.) “We talk about topics that are not so pleasant, because we want to change things,” emphasizes Ahmad Mansour. He is a student of psychology and has lived in Germany for five years. He is the group leader and has been supervising Deniz, Gökay, Onur, Okcan and Turabi, along with the actor Yilmaz Atmaca, for six months.

The boys went to lectures and exhibitions and took part in discussions on such topics as codes of honour, self-determination and equality. The aim was to help them break with old ways of thinking and gather convincing arguments to be used when standing up for their sisters and girlfriends – so that they can ultimately serve as role models for their peers.

To do this they worked out a few small role plays to be used in schools or youth clubs that also get the participants involved. For example, the father is furious because the son has not been keeping an eye on the daughter; the brother hits his sister because she came home late … In this way Aki and Abdul find out what it is like to be in Asiye’s or Alima’s shoes.

A full-time job for the “Heroes”

Avni and Ufuk also took part in a workshop at their school. “A girl was beaten up because she was wearing a mini-skirt and had been out with her boyfriend late at night,” as 17-year-old Avni recalls the role play. Many of the participants were laughing and found it quite normal – probably because they had been through the same thing, 16-year-old Ufuk assumed.

Both of them agreed that boys and girls were treated differently, and Ufuk went on to say that parents trusted their sons more than they trusted their daughters. “After the role plays we had a discussion,” he continued. “There were various opinions, a lot of questions were asked and the “Heroes” answered them.”

“Heroes” awarded with diploma (photo: Strohalm e.V.) If they are prepared to listen to each other and try to understand, then that is a start at least, said Ufuk, who is quite sure he would never resort to violence. One of the teachers involved, Marianne Johannsen, would like to see more projects like this, in particular ones that would span a longer period of time.

Her students have such a weird concept of honor, she says, that it often affects their learning abilities – even the slightest form of criticism insults their honor. “The ‘Heroes’ would have a full-time job at our school,” she says. Unfortunately there is no way they could do that – they are still at school or college themselves.

Getting them to think about the problem

The idea behind “Heroes” comes from Sweden. Dagmar Riedel-Breidenstein, sociologist and head of the registered society called ‘Strohhalm’, introduced the idea to Neukölln and coordinates the project. Another sociologist, Anna Rinder von Beckerath, brought the experience she gained from a similar project in Sweden and manages the project in collaboration with the gender researcher Jenny Breidenstein. Since 2007 “Heroes” has been funded by the World Childhood Foundation.

Soon the second group of “Heroes” will have finished their training and will be ceremoniously awarded their certificates; then there will be twelve young “Heroes” between 17 and 21 in the team.

Deniz recalls the way he started. His mother told him about the project. He had a few long chats with Ahmad and Yilmaz and then slowly started to take a few other guys along. “My family and my friends are behind me on this,” he says, “and if I get the odd strange reaction, I am not bothered at all.”

He is fully aware that he cannot change the way these young guys think in a matter of a few hours, but it gives him a sense of achievement if he can at least get them thinking about the problem – even if sometimes it is only for an afternoon. This is also the reason why he is still part of the project.

Regina Friedrich

© Goethe Institute 2010

Translation: Paul McCarthy

Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de

Sweden’s young muslims cancel visit by criticized imam

Sweden’s Young Muslims (SUM) is hosting a conference in Stockholm this weekend where the North-American imam Abdullah Hakim Quick were supposed to talk about the future of young Muslims in the west. According to different sources the imam has been rallying against homosexuals and Jews in earlier speeches – and after a week of massive protests SUM decided to cancel Quick’s lecture.

Homophobe imam invited to speak to Sweden’s Young Muslims

The North-American Imam Abdullah Hakim Quick has been invited to give a speech at a conference initiated by Sweden’s Young Muslims (SUM). Abdullah Hakim Quick is, in earlier speeches, to have described Jews as “filthy” and to advocate the execution of homosexuals. According to SUM’s homepage he says this is misunderstanding created by Western Islamophobes.

Sören Juvas, chairperson of the Swedish Gay Right group RFSL says that SUM’s invitation “shows a complete lack of responsibility. I was previously under the impression that this organization respected principles of equal rights for everybody but now it seems they couldn’t care less about the values they claim to stand for.” RFSL are hoping for SUM to withdraw their invitation.

Mohammad Kharraki, spokesperson of SUM, says they promote multitude and reject extremism in any form. Even so they will not withdraw Quicks invitation as “it would mean too many changes in the program.” Kharraki says the Imam is not invited to lecture on homosexuality, but to talk about “Muslim identity and about what goals one is to set for oneself as a young Muslim.”

The conference is to be held Easter weekend.

Muhammad the Roundabout Dog and Jihad Jane makes the News

This weeks news was dominated by the arrest of seven persons in Ireland planning to assassinate the Swedish artist Lars Vilks. Vilks became the focus of Muslim protests in 2007, when the Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published his drawing of “Muhammad as a Roundabout dog”. Ever since the original publication Vilks has been receiving threats from various people and groups (claiming to be) of Muslim background. Even so he doesn’t seem that concerned. Commenting on al-Qaida’s 100.000 dollar reward in 2007 Vilks said he “appreciate that the terrorists are showing an interest in art.”

Tuesdays arrest in Ireland in general, and the now internationally infamous “Jihad Jane” a.k.a Colleen LaRose in particular, has emulated hundreds of articles, news specials, and radio shows in Sweden during the week. There has also been (unconfirmed) speculations about LaRose being in Sweden already in 2009 to assassinate Vilks.

LaRose’s face, and Vilks on the porch to his house, axe in hand, saying he regrets nothing and is able to defend himself – has dominated Swedish newspapers. “The new terrorist is blond and blue-eyed” read Thursdays headlines in the freely distributed tabloid Metro. “There’s no longer a template to follow looking for terrorists,” said David Livingstone of the Brittish think tank Chatham House in the same publication. And Dagens Nyheter knew to report that “Terrorists are now trying to recruit westerners.”

Dagens Nyheter and Expressen, amongst others, also chose to re-publish Vilks’ drawing in their printed editions Thursday March 10 (but not on the online edition). Expressen’s editor in chief Håkan Mattson says the re-publication of the drawing is “a standpoint for the freedom of speach”, and the editorial in Dagens Nyheter read that “a threat against Lars Vilks is a threat against every Swedish citizen.”

Many Swedish Muslims have (once again) felt a need to oppose the threats against Vilks. For example Imam Othman Al Tawalbeh says “We can’t let the terrorists kidnap Islam”, parliament member Nalin Pekgul defends Vilks’ right to speak his mind, and Bejzat Becirov of Islamic Center in Malmö stressed that “Vilks is allowed to draw whatever he wants, there is no excuse use violence or to threaten him.” Even so Sylvia Asklöf Fortell of Barometern writes in an editorial that it’s now time for Swedish “moderate Muslims” to speak up against the terrorists.

On national television (SVT Gomorron Sverige, March 11) and radio (P1 morgon, March 10; P3 Brunchrapporten, March 11) Historian of Religion David Thurfjell of Södertörn University, argued that Muslim indignation caused by the drawing, needs to be understood in relation to a more general experience of humiliation, the roots of which can be found in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. Thurfjell argued that there is a discrepancy in the understanding of the issue at stake. Where most publicists in Sweden see the conflict as concerning the principles of free speech, many Muslims interpret Vilks’ drawing in the light of a larger political conflict. For these Muslims the oft repeated argument that newspapers now again should insult Muslims by re-publishing the drawings in order to take a stand for democratic values, echos of the American rhetoric surrounding the invasion of Iraq and other instances in which exploitation of Muslim countries have been carried out in the name of democracy.