• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
'Swedes shouldn't accept being called racist'
Swedish National Day celebrations in Stockholm. File photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Swedes shouldn't accept being called racist'

Published: 28 Jan 2014 12:11 GMT+01:00
Updated: 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
Science
Swedish women in two-year sex pill study
Contraceptive pills have been linked to mood swings. Photo: Shutterstock

Swedish women in two-year sex pill study

Three hundred women from across Sweden are taking part in a study designed to demonstrate that modern contraceptive pills don't lead to decreased libido or mood swings. READ  

National
Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe
The ship was rescued on Thursday. Photo: Swedish Coast Guard

Stockholm 'sinking' oil spill ship safe

After fears a ship carrying around 52 tonnes of oil could sink in Stockholm's archipelago, Sweden's Coast Guard said the vessel had been towed to safety. READ  

National
Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal
A scene from a video of the attack published by Dagens Nyheter

Dog attack policewoman acquitted on appeal

A policewoman accused of letting her dog attack a drunk man while she repeatedly hit him with a baton, has had her conviction overturned by a court in Stockholm. READ  

Entertainment
What's On: October 31st - November 7th
Uma Thurman will soon be on her way to Stockholm. Photo: TT

What's On: October 31st - November 7th

Halloween fun and an international film festival are the big events hitting Stockholm this week. We cast our eye over the capital and the rest of the country for the best activities to check out this week. READ  

International
Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark
Gottrid Svartholm Warg. File photo: TT

Pirate Bay Swede found guilty in Denmark

Sweden's Pirate Bay Founder Gottrid Svartholm Warg was found guilty of hacking crimes in a Danish court on Thursday. READ  

National
Malmö loses out as rare toads move in
The European green toad. Photo: H. Krisp (WikiCommons)

Malmö loses out as rare toads move in

After a rare species of toad moved into southern Sweden's Malmö, builders have had to tone down massive expansion plans in the area. READ  

Politics
Palestine recognized as state by Sweden
Sweden's Foreign Minister is Margot Wallström. Photo: TT

Palestine recognized as state by Sweden

The Swedish government has officially decided to recognize Palestine, with the move announced in a speech by the country's new Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. READ  

Interview
Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween
For ten days, Globen is transformed into a giant pumpkin. Photo: Shockholm

Stockholm's shocking take on Halloween

American Bill Schacht missed the spooky outfits, family feasts and charity events he associated with Halloween when he moved to Sweden. So he did something about it. The Local meets the founder of the capital's annual Shockholm parade. READ  

Business & Money
Huge losses for energy giant Vattenfall
A Vattenfall plant in Germany. Photo: TT

Huge losses for energy giant Vattenfall

Swedish energy company Vattenfall has reported losses for the third quarter in a row. READ  

International
Malala donates prize winnings to Gaza
Malala receives the Children's Prize from Queen Silvia. Photo: TT

Malala donates prize winnings to Gaza

UPDATED: Girls' rights champion Malala Yousafzai, who was in Sweden to accept the World's Children's Prize on Wednesday, said she would use all her winnings to help rebuild schools in war-ravaged Gaza. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
People-watching: October 30th
National
Sweden remains fourth best for gender equality
National
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Sport
World Cup ski race on 'fake' Stockholm slope
Blog updates

29 October

Scariest day (Blogweiser) »

"This is what’s frightening me on Halloween. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4OFZVCu8J0&list=UUJu5J7jG4uoYSjWbpFsJBuQ Follow my posts on FB. ..." READ »

 

24 October

Editor’s blog, October 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Get ready to read our weekly digest of Swedish news in less than 60 seconds. The..." READ »

 
 
 
Society
An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft
Society
Stockholm taxis offer free therapy sessions
National
The Local meets Health Minister Gabriel Wikström
Gallery
Property of the week: Österåker
Society
Homeless turtles get Stockholm police ride
National
Construction worker has 'Sweden's best beard'
National
Italian musician jazzes up Sweden's Lapland
Gallery
Zlatan's career in pictures
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching: October 25th and 26th
Lifestyle
'Swedes are funnier than they think'
National
Swedish town 'like Venice' after heavy rains
Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
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

994
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
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:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN