The real scandal isn't what drunken Sweden Democrats said when they are out on the town, but that the racism they expressed is so common among Swedes, argues Mariam Osman Sherifay, chairwoman of the Centre Against Racism (Centrum mot rasism).
It has been a turbulent couple of weeks for the Sweden Democrats.
After first desperately trying to cover up the open racism displayed by prominent members, spokesman Martin Kinnunen last Friday penned a threatening statement to the Expressen newspaper in which the snarling author demanded the film the tabloid had obtained, but which party representatives have had access to for some two and a half years.
“The Sweden Democrats think Expressen’s directorial extravaganza of cutting and pasting must stop,” Kinnunen wrote in the statement, despite the fact that a Sweden Democrat had previously edited the material to his own advantage.
Over the course of the week, the guilty representatives at least temporarily withdrew from the public eye. Behind all this is the every-day racism for which the Sweden Democrats constantly make themselves mouthpieces.
The uncouth racism and contempt for women aired by the three Swede Democrat leaders are an everyday occurrence in Swedish bars but perhaps even more visible in the comment fields on the websites that Sweden Democrat followers have made into their virtual meeting places.
I have myself encountered a veritable mob mentality in these places. On the Sweden Democrat-friendly forum Sweden Confidential I recently read that I ought to be sectioned on account of my views.
On other forums I have been called “Social Democrat scum”, “moron”, and “useful idiot”, just to mention some of the nicer words of abuse. A lot of this hatred comes from Sweden Democrat sympathizers or from those who support similar political parties.
And all too often, these comments remain unchallenged.
These things happen all the time on the internet. As a result, opinion website Newsmill has shut down its comments, while the Debatt section of Sveriges Television (SVT) remains open.
But Swedish racism doesn’t end there.
Everyday racism exists in schools, pubs, on the job market, on the housing market, and in how black football players are talked about.
Sweden Democrats are simply a product of this Swedish racism.
The three politicians in the iron pipe gang have simply voiced what the majority of the party think; opinions they actually share with many Swedes.
The real scandal, therefore, isn’t what drunken Sweden Democrats say in a pub, but that the racism that they are expressing is so common in Sweden.
The Sweden Democrats received some 11 percent in an opinion poll recently carried out by research company United Minds, so we must suppose that their political programme is well known.
As a result, it can come as a surprise that the leading representatives for such a well-known racist party can be accused of being racists.
Despite what many seem to argue, the view that Sweden isn’t the country of comedian Soran Ismail but of Sweden Democrat economic policy spokesman Erik Almqvist and his party, is widely accepted within the party.
The same goes for when they threw the made up word “babbe” in Ismail’s face.
The word is supposed to be understood as a variant of baboon; it's not a swear word shouted by inebriated youngsters on a pub crawl, but typical of the racism that many within the party share, that many of us are subjected to daily, and that the Sweden Democrats have made into their ideology.
What has bothered a lot of Sweden Democrats isn’t the racism that the iron pipe gang expressed, but the fact that they lied about what happened.
The Sweden Democrats built their brand on telling the truth where other political parties lie. Now, the credibility of the party leadership has been jeopardized.
Add to this that the members of the iron pipe gang are being investigated in seven cases of hate speech and assault, on the initiative of the Stockholm police.
Of course the expulsion of the iron pipe gang from the party would be welcomed, but it won’t change anything in principle.
The fact that they haven’t already been expelled is a sign in itself; the Sweden Democrats are racist.
The reactions in media debates are comparatively tired; some have made an analogy by asking what would have happened if Finance Minister Anders Borg and Justice Minister Beatrice Ask had armed themselves with iron pipes, called a young woman a “little cunt” and a comedian “babbe” and other similar expletives?
My own guess is that all the media and debaters would have loudly demanded their expulsion and of course the Moderates would have expelled them immediately. That neither of this has happened shows some sort of acceptance or at least desensitization.
Let’s just hope that last week’s occurrences can be a wake-up call; that people finally realize that there is racism in the Swedish society much worse than the uncouth skinheads who made up the White Aryan Resistance-supporters in the 1980s and 1990s. The movement's political power was limited and their influence was almost completely subcultural.
But the Sweden Democrats are part of the establishment and the racism that they vent includes at least 11 percent of Swedish voters.
It is time to seriously scrutinize Sweden’s largest racist party. It is time to work on our own racism.
Mariam Osman Sherifay is a Social Democrat politician and has served as the chairwoman of the Centre Against Racism (Centrum mot rasism) since 2009.
This article was originally published in Swedish on the Newsmill opinion website. English translation by The Local.