• Sweden edition
 
The Lowdown
Omar Mustafa and the Social Democrats

Omar Mustafa and the Social Democrats

Published: 23 Apr 2013 11:35 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 Apr 2013 11:35 GMT+02:00

In this instalment of The Lowdown, The Local's Peter Vinthagen Simpson has a look at Omar Mustafa, who has been in the news since his election to the governing board of the Social Democrats.

So, who exactly is this person?

Omar Mustafa has served as chairman of Sweden’s Islamic Association (Islamiska förbundet) since December 4th 2010 and was elected as a substitute member of the governing board of the Social Democratic party on April 7th 2013.

Mustafa served as a board member of the party's local district in Stockholm (Arbetarekommun) after his election in 2012.

Why has he been in all the papers for the past fortnight?

His election was met with criticism by senior party members, including current and former leaders Stefan Löfven and Mona Sahlin, and he stepped down from all positions of responsibility within the party six days later.

Why was his election criticized?

Anti-racist magazine Expo published an article on April 8th reporting that Omar Mustafa had been criticized for "not having distanced himself from anti-Semites".

The article cited Willy Silberstein from the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism, (SCAA), who accused Mustafa of having given legitimacy to Egyptians Sallah Sultan and Ragheb Al-Serjany by inviting them to speak at an event organized by the Swedish Islamic Association in 2010.

He was also criticized by Silberstein for having said in a debate on Sveriges Radio in 2010 that Mustafa Yousef Al-Qaradawi was "often very balanced in his rhetoric".

The debate has also been extended to criticism of the appearance of Yasir Qadhi, Azzam Tamimi and Yvonne Ridley at the association's "family days" in Stockholm in March 2013.

Criticism of these speakers centres around the issues of anti-Semitism, homophobia and support for terrorism, and for Hamas.

What was Omar Mustafa’s response to the criticism?

In an article published in the Aftonbladet daily on April 11th, Mustafa was conciliatory and expressed understanding for the criticism.

“I fully understand the view of critics that the participation of these people can be construed as legitimizing a hate-filled and intolerant view,” he wrote.

He declared that the Islamic Association “needs to be better” at ensuring that speakers have distanced themselves from previous hate-filled rhetoric before inviting them to Sweden.

He underlined that he stands behind the Swedish marriage law, “which among other things gives homosexuals the right to marry”. He also stated that he sees “women’s rights as human rights” and underlined his belief in “a society which is characterized by diversity and equality”.

However, when the Islamic Association was first criticized of connections to anti-Semitism in 2011, Mustafa adopted a distinctly different tone, dismissing accusations as Islamophobia.

Mustafa insisted at the time that the association would “continue to invite known and relevant Muslim speakers” to its events “regardless of what... the Islamophobes say and think”.

So what happened next?

Criticism of Omar Mustafa and the Islamic Association continued in the media throughout the week. Mona Sahlin, among others, accused Mustafa personally of anti-Semitism although she has since distanced herself from the comments.

He has also been accused of making homophobic statements.

The Svenska Dagbladet daily reported on April 20th that it had searched the Swedish press archive and Omar Mustafa’s social media activity over the past three years and found nothing of an anti-Semitic or homophobic nature.

Mustafa was however found by the Aftonbladet daily to have argued against the party line when using his Twitter account in March 2011 to call for fighter aircraft to be sent to attack Israel.

The Svenska Dagbladet report also discounted a claim, originally made by Social Democrat Vivianne Macdisi, that the Islamic Association’s bylaws (see link below) stipulated a distinction between the status of women and men.

The document in question was on the website until recently but was buried in an archive of translated documents and was not part of the association’s bylaws.

On Saturday April 13th Social Democrat party leader Stefan Löfven issued an ultimatum to Omar Mustafa saying that he had to share the party’s values in response to a question as to whether Mustafa could remain as chair of the Islamic Association and sit on the party’s executive board.

Later on Saturday Omar Mustafa resigned from all posts within the party after discussions with the party's head in Stockholm, Veronica Palm.

So that was the end of that?

No. The story remains in the news following statements by Omar Mustafa criticizing the party and accusing his critics of Islamophobia.

He has received support from representatives of Social Democratic faith groups, such as Peter Weiderud and Ulf Bjereld, and further criticism from senior party veterans such as Nalin Pekgul.

In an analysis posted on his blog on April 18th, political scientist Andreas Johansson Heinö argued that "the Mustafa-affair is here to stay" explaining that the issue has left divisions in the party, the media and other sections of society.

"We are now in a situation where the party is deeply split on something as fundamental as Islamism. Are Omar Mustafa and the Islamic Association Islamist or not? Is this consistent with Social Democracy or not?"

"That a party the size of the Social Democrats is caught out by these questions is completely astounding," Johansson Heinö concluded.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

Follow Peter on Twitter here.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is planning to put vegetarian meatballs on the menu in an attempt to cut down on its carbon footprint, the company has announced. READ () »

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

The Swedish government has proposed scrapping the 25-year span for repaying student loans, by suggesting those who attend higher education should keep paying the money back well into retirement. READ () »

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage
The crayfish cage in the picture is not the one mentioned in the story. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage

Police in eastern Sweden have launched a preliminary investigation of animal cruelty after two puppies were found drowned in a crayfish cage. READ () »

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat
Rickard Rundgren Björk of the coastguard services speaks to the media after the rescue operation on April 19th 2014. Photo: Maja Suslin /TT

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat

Three Saturday morning sailors had a lucky escape after their small boat collided and sank after it crashed into a cruise ship whilst sailing in the Stockholm archipelago. READ () »

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK
Sofie Marie Jansson. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK

British police have found the missing Swedish girl Sofie Jansson in London, exactly a week after she was last seen, with authorities saying she is doing well. READ () »

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Sweden's opposition party has stepped up its efforts to secure the pensioner vote by pledging to lower taxes for the elderly and make higher earners pay more. READ () »

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend
Showan Shattak pictured in Malmö before his attack. Photo: Facebook

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend

The 25-year-old man, whose stabbing by neo-Nazis sparked mass demonstrations across Sweden, has made a strong recovery in hospital and took to social media to thank supporters for campaigning against fascism. READ () »

Police seeking missing Swede in London

British police have issued a plea for tips in the search to find Swedish national Sofie Marie Jansson who hasn't been seen for almost a week. READ () »

University applications rocket to record high

University applications rocket to record high

Swedish universities continue to draw vast amounts of applicants with the number of prospective students seeking a third level education increasing for the seventh year in a row. READ () »

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot
Swedish artist Lars Vilks pictured in New York in 2012. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf/TT

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot

American authorities have sentenced a 20-year-old accomplice of 'Jihad Jane' to five years in prison for an attempted terror plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, after getting involved with the murder plans when he was a teenager. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
TT
Society
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Shutterstock
National
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
Advertisement:
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

738
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com