• 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)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Opinion
'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

Caught in an identity limbo and surrounded by often apathetic "love refugees", The Local's resident Swedophile Solveig Rundquist wonders if she's the only expat who moved to Sweden for the culture alone. READ  

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets

Sweden's Prison and Probation Service are beginning a project in which suspected criminals will be given surf tablets to look at evidence against them. READ  

Snake hunt after man claims playground bite
The Swedish adder. Photo: Piet Spaans

Snake hunt after man claims playground bite

A man claimed to have been bitten by a poisonous snake at a paddling pool in Gothenburg on Thursday prompting a hunt which ended without a trace of the offending reptile. READ  

Stockholmers sound off on 'beautiful Swedes'
Swedish girls in Stockholm. Photo: Susanne Walström/Imagebank Sweden

Stockholmers sound off on 'beautiful Swedes'

Following a Nordic survey in which Swedes were voted the "most attractive", The Local hit the streets to see what Stockholmers thought. READ  

Sweden keeps eye on Norway bomb threat
Norwegian police car at Oslo Gardemoen Airport. Photo: TT

Sweden keeps eye on Norway bomb threat

The Swedish Security Service (Säpo) have said that an "imminent terror threat" to neighbouring Norway doesn't yet affect Sweden although developments are being closely followed. READ  

Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
The Blomdahl family in Berlin. Photo: Private

Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin

Edvin Blomdahl is seven-years-old. He also cycled from Sweden to Berlin, a journey of 370 kilometres, in four days. READ  

Opinion
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Demonstrations at Sergels Torg in Stockholm. Photo: Kent Vilhelmsson

'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'

As the rhetoric rises at demonstrations in Swedish cities, Stockholm-based Israeli writer David Stavrou calls on Swedes to think before they shout and to cast a critical eye over much that is written and said about the conflict in Gaza. READ  

Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Sweden
The vintage tractor ready to travel from UK to north Norway. Photo: Peter Matheson

Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Sweden

A British man is set next month to drive from Scotland, across Sweden, and to the northern tip of Norway on a vintage tractor to raise money for a cancer charity. READ  

Sweden agency hikes heat warning to 'extreme'
This canine friend is not amused. Photo: TT

Sweden agency hikes heat warning to 'extreme'

Swedish weather agency SMHI has raised its weather warning to class 2, giving notice of "extremely high temperatures" in parts of the country. READ  

Songs for a hot Swedish summer
Ted Gärdestad. Photo: TT

Songs for a hot Swedish summer

Contributor Paul Connolly has put together a list of Swedish songs to capture balmy summer days, which in his neck of the northern woods are pushing the mercury above 35c for the first time in a century. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
Blog updates

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 

22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
National
Malmö mayor slams Danish beggar ban
National
Swedish anti-abortion midwife sues county
National
Swede's salary chopped for Facebook use
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
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

717
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
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
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