• Sweden's news in English
 

'Swedes shouldn't accept being called racist'

The Local · 28 Jan 2014, 12:11

Published: 28 Jan 2014 12:11 GMT+01:00

"They give you a false smile and pretend that they care about you. The only thing they like and care about are themselves. Swedes are the worst racists in the world."

Those were the words uttered in a conversation between four asylum seekers who were awaiting word from the Swedish authorities while living in a migrant housing facility in Alstermo, southern Sweden. The date was Thursday, March 10th, 2011.

When I lived at the residence I met very few Swedes. I started to believe that what I was hearing was true and I wondered if I'd committed the worst mistake of my life by travelling to such a racist country. Yet when I met Swedish staff at the residence facility, they were always very friendly. Why would the Swedes have to play-act pleasantries and pretend they cared about asylum seekers?

I didn't know what to believe. I only heard negative opinions about the Swedes, never anything positive. In April 2011, I was granted asylum and readied myself to go out and experience how racist the people in my new country were.

I asked others who had been granted permanent residency (permanent uppehållstillstånd – PUT) why Swedes, if they were so racist, allowed people from other countries to stay in their country and become part of their society? They said: "Just because Swedes give us a residence permit doesn't mean they are not racists! They had to give us residency because our asylum stories were so good and Sweden doesn't want to be called a racist country."

I have now lived three years in Sweden and have a completely different image of the Swedes than the one held by most other asylum immigrants that I have met and spoken with. For the past year, I have had a good job as a teacher and I support myself. From my first day in a state-funded Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) class with Swedish teachers; travelling on buses and trains; in shops and cafés; at the homes of Swedish families I have gotten to know -- in all these places I have observed how Swedes behave. So far, I have not once met anyone who comes close to displaying racism.

Unfortunately, many of my countrymen and others who have immigrated feel both hatred and contempt in their hearts for Swedes. They don't want to adapt and integrate in the land that gave them opportunities. If their social insurance payment comes one day late, they call it racism. When the bus driver asks them to show their ticket, he is a racist. If the doctor doesn't give them the medicines they want, the doctor is a racist. And so on.

The Swedish asylum process has to become strict, clear, and consistent, and the Swedes should not accept being called racists on such flimsy grounds. If they do, they will become hostages in their own country, and the contempt that refugees feel risks growing.

Most refugees are used to public servants and teachers in their home countries being authoritarian, rather than nearly self-effacing, which is an approach many of them encounter here. The Swedish kindness, the way it is expressed in how Sweden handles refugees and integration, confuses many new arrivals and creates a bad foundation for building mutual trust and respect.

Zulmay Afzali  worked for the government in Afghanistan before seeking asylum in Sweden three years ago. He is a teacher and author. His forthcoming book, Hederlighetens pris ('The price of honesty') will be published in February by Mummelförlaget publishers. This article originally appeared in Swedish in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper on January 26th, 2013. English translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Heavy rain warning for western parts of Sweden
Stockholmers carrying umbrellas this summer. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Heavy rain warning for western parts of Sweden

52 minutes ago

Jump into your boots and get the umbrella out. Forecasters issued a heavy rain warning on Tuesday as it looked like autumn was on its way to Sweden – just in time to welcome the start of September.

Opinion
'Sweden should target women extremists more'
The radical Islamist Al-Shabaab group in Somalia. Photo: Mohamed Sheikh Nor/TT

'Sweden should target women extremists more'

1 hour ago

Female extremism is a growing problem in Sweden and the government should do more to prevent it, argue Jessica Katz and Katarina Tracz from the Stockholm Free World Forum.

Julian Assange
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Julian Assange following a court hearing in 2010. Photo: TT

Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations

October 28, 2014

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden where he is facing sex assault allegations. The Local looks at the key points in his case so far.

Julian Assange
Sweden edges closer to Assange interrogation
Julian Assange with US pastor Jesse Jackson on the balcony of Ecuador's London embassy. Photo: Yui Mok/PA via AP

Sweden edges closer to Assange interrogation

2 hours ago

Sweden hopes to reach a judicial cooperation deal with Ecuador by the end of the year that would pave the way for prosecutors to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over a rape allegation.

Migrant crisis
Thousands saved by Swedish rescue ship
Migrants being taken to the port of Palermo by Poseidon on August 27th. Photo: AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini

Thousands saved by Swedish rescue ship

16 hours ago

After saving the lives of 5,295 migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea during a three-month mission, Swedish rescue ship Poseidon has begun its journey home.

Russian jets spotted off Sweden's east coast
A picture of a Russian TU-22 jet taken at another occasion. Photo: AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

Russian jets spotted off Sweden's east coast

17 hours ago

UPDATED: Swedish military identified and followed two Russian TU-22 fighter planes escorted by a pair of SU-27 aircraft flying east of the island of Gotland on Monday morning.

Video
Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring
Screengrab: Höga Kusten Destinationsutveckling AB/YouTube

Swedes show world how to eat fermented herring

22 hours ago

A fermented herring expert has teamed up with a Swedish tourism company to show the world how surströmming is supposed to be eaten in response to a BuzzFeed video in which Americans turn their noses up at the Swedish delicacy.

Chinese firm in bid to build Swedish railway
China Railway Construction's chief engineer Xu Keliang. Photo: News Øresund

Chinese firm in bid to build Swedish railway

19 hours ago

A Chinese company has made an offer to build a planned Swedish high-speed railway in record time and at a much lower price than previously estimated, Swedish media has reported.

My Swedish Career
'What can I bring to Sweden that is unique?'
Trevor Adams from Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Private

'What can I bring to Sweden that is unique?'

1 day ago

Trevor Adams, 23, tells The Local how he went from washing dishes to running his own restaurant franchise after turning his weakness in the Swedish jobs market into a unique strength.

Migrant crisis
EU calls migrant crisis emergency talks
The Swedish coastguard rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: Kustbevakningen

EU calls migrant crisis emergency talks

1 day ago

The European Union has called an emergency meeting of interior and justice ministers in two weeks to find concrete measures to cope with escalating migration.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

Gallery
People-watching: August 28th-30th
National
'Sweden Democrats will run the country'
National
Swedish bin men hailed as heroes after rescuing doomed kitten
National
This Swedish teen was told she was 'too big' to be a model
Lifestyle
Six reasons to stay outdoors this week
Blog updates

28 August

Editor’s blog, August 28th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, It was all glitz and glamour in Sweden this week as Stockholm Fashion Week got..." READ »

 

18 August

Preteritum eller presens perfekt? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hello everyone, It’s grammar time ! I got an interesting question about the past tense vs present..." READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'It gives you the guts to believe in yourself'
Gallery
People-watching: August 26th
Sponsored Article
Nine places where Stockholm needs more English
National
Rescued baby lemur gets new Stockholm home
National
Stockholm Fashion Week turns island into Mars
Gallery
Property of the week: Stora Essingen, Stockholm
National
Swedish crayfish thieves caught red handed by officers
National
Veil soon to be lifted on new Millennium sequel novel
Gallery
People-watching: August 21st - 22nd
Cecilia Larsson Lantz/imagebank.sweden.se
Presented by Stockholm Academic Forum
International students welcomed to Stockholm
National
The Bridge: What does the third season have in store?
National
Lucky escape for Swedes after 'dead' bear launches attack
National
Syrian asylum seeker comic: 'We don't prefer Sweden any more'
National
Are anti-immigration nationalists really now Sweden's biggest party?
Lifestyle
Baby joy for Swedish crime queen and her wrestler boyfriend
National
Soldier accused of faking first Isis attack in Sweden
National
Fire alert as Sweden sizzles in summer heatwave
Gallery
People-watching: August 19th
National
Meet the Swede who is crazy for Norway’s mass killer
National
Swede's review of night in drunk tank goes viral
National
VIDEO: Swedish teen melts hearts with this incredible Idol audition
Society
What's a Swedish crayfish party?
National
UN: Sweden can't be left to shoulder migrant crisis alone
Gallery
Property of the week: Skogås, Huddinge
National
Men outstrip women for first time
Society
IN PICTURES: Wooden town resembles 'war zone' after huge fire
Gallery
People-watching: August 14th-16th
Sport
Swedish referee shuts viral Facebook page explaining his decisions
Business & Money
A studio in Stockholm or a castle in the countryside?
National
How did twelve skeletons end up beneath a Swedish castle?
Pharmacy to launch plasters for darker skin in anti racism drive
Gallery
People-watching: August 12th
National
TIMELINE: Everything you need to know about the Julian Assange case
National
Millennium sequel author labelled 'grave robber'
National
Two metre long python stops traffic in Malmö
National
IN PICTURES: Shoppers pay tribute to Ikea stabbing victims
Technology
Danish 'monster' pulled out of Swedish waters
National
Bizarre baby baptism for hockey fan
Gallery
Property of the week: Löderup, Ystad
National
Sunshine brightens up Sweden
Sponsored Article
Getting pregnant the Swedish way
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

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 Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

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

3,200
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se