The far-right in Sweden still wants a society without Muslims.
Stockholm Mosque via Creative Commons
During the end of April, Sweden became more mentioned in media globally concerning what came to be known as “the Easter riots”. The situation started in the middle of April with an extreme far-right politician Rasmus Paludan trying to burn a Quaran, a holy book for Muslims, in the city of Linkoeping.
Paludan is known for promoting ideas such as that Islam should be forbidden as a religion and that Muslims should be forced out from countries such as Denmark, Pauldan’s birthplace. One of his proposals is the “expulsion of non-Western persons”.
Paludan’s tactic is to provoke violant actions and hate by burning Qurans in areas with larger number of Muslim residents, and also in areas that are already categorised as vulnerable, with social problems as unemployment and lack of trust, and with a higher degree of organised crime as regarding sales of narcotics. What is worth mentioning is that Paludan, in the 2019 general elections in Denmark, was only lacking 0,2 of the votes to enter the Danish Parliament.
During the riots in several cities such as Stockholm and Oerebro, political parties have made many comments, including proposals regarding crime and punishment, and law and order policies. Differences are waging from left to right, and from progressive to conservative positions. What is more unique and also worrying are the proposals and communication being made by the far-right party Sweden Democrats — a party that started as a Neo-Nazi and radical nationalist one at the end of the 1980s and which today is presenting itself as “socially conservative with a nationalist fundament”.
When the SD came into the Swedish Parliament for the first time in 2010, one of the party’s main behaviors was to communicate negatively and hostility regarding Muslims, Islam, and Islamism in combination with communication around immigration and identification. In fact, the party’s electoral video, which included cultural racist aspects and was rejected by all larger contemporary TV channels in Sweden, was based on presenting a false dilemma between a large number of women in a burqa with a white, retired Swede.
For example, before the elections in 2010, the party leader Jimmy Åkesson published an article in the daily Aftonbladet presenting Islamism, but also Islam and indirectly Muslims, as “the biggest foreign threat” to Sweden in modern times. A leading politician Josef Fransson shared an anti-Muslim video in 2011 stating that contemporary US president Barack Obama is gay and Muslim. Another leading politician Richard Jomshof, famous for making law proposals exclusively targeting Muslims, made a statement that Islam is “worse than national-socialism (Nazi ideology)”.
The case of Jomshof is important to understand because Jomshof is one of the key members behind the “remaking” of the Sweden Democrats during the 2000s. The party has changed since its founding, but this “change” is made by transforming from radical- and ethnonationalism with biological racism and hostility toward immigrants in general to right-wing and conservative civic nationalism with cultural racism and hostility mainly towards Muslims. The party has also changed its communication tactics by presenting itself not as anti-Islam nor anti-Muslim but as anti-Islamism and anti-” bad Muslims”.
However, despite these “changes” it is still the case that leading far-right politicians are still communicating in a style that Sweden should be a nation where Muslims cannot be residents and citizens. For example, during the Easter riots, a leading politician Bjoern Soeder made a post on his Twitter with content often used to spread hate and social phobia against Muslims.
Thereby, politicians in Sweden Democrats (or Sweden Ethnocrats as I often call them) are from time to time proving that they are not only critical or against Islamism but also against Islam and Muslims. Because one cannot say, “I want to prohibit Islam in my country, but I am ok with Muslims”. Saying that would be like saying, “I want to prohibit Christianity but ok with Christians,” thereby denying and preventing members of a religious community to exist and participate in a certain country.
The behavior of Sweden Democrats when it comes to religion is not unique. In fact, their behavior is typical for right-wing populist and far-right nationalist parties in the EU. One feature of such parties, and many of their voters, is rejecting and actively working against democratic and constitutional values, principles, and institutions. For example, Sweden Democrats are not only trying to exclude Islam and Muslims from Sweden, for example, by claiming that Islam is not part of Sweden’s culture but also by promoting that Sweden needs a state church and should be “a Christian society”.
Another feature of anti-constitutional behavior concerning recent riots are proposals regarding law and order. Among other things, Sweden Democrats have proposed usage of the military in socially vulnerable areas of Stockholm, and also that whole families with the right to residency in Sweden should be expelled, in practice meaning collective punishment and without evidence for every individual.
The recent riots in Sweden have been a shocking and horrifying experience for most Swedes, regardless of political and other identifications. The Swedish far-right is doing the same behavior as around the world — throwing fuel on the fire, using the situation to create even more hysteria, fear, and hate among people. Sweden Democrats have, despite all cosmetical and rhetorical changes, still never given up on their original agenda — “Preserve Sweden Swedish” by using the government to decide who is a Swede and where being Sweden and a Muslim would be impossible and illegal.
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