It was a very interesting panel (the link above lists the participants) and a great number of interesting elements around how to prevent the existence, rise and spread violent extremism (right, left and Islamic) in our societies (both the US and Sweden). Without trying to summarize the panelists’ viewpoint, one common point of agreement they all shared was the importance of the open dialog.
During the Q&A follow up, an audience member opened up what became an opinion floodgate. He pointed out that open dialog requires that the speaker can say whatever is on her mind without fear of retribution. He reminded us all that in Sweden, Swedish anti-hate laws (hets mot folkgrupp) curtail the individual’s opportunity to, and he pardoned his language, “be an asshole in public.” In less colorful words, it’s against Swedish law to express hateful opinions about specific groupings of people.
It triggered a flurry of eager participation to join a collective dialog (ironically).
The event was unfortunately limited in time so the discussions perhaps didn’t satisfy many people’s interest in the contradiction of Sweden’s strong belief in opening a dialog to prevent the rise of violent extremism while simultaneously restricting the same extent of free speech extended to citizens of the US.
Many people thanked the audience member who highlighted the contradiction to which he replied “I never imagined I would ever receive so much praise for saying that people should be allowed to be more racist.”
It’s not exactly what he meant, but it is one way to boil it down.
There’s a difference between hate speech intended to incite violence and expression of hate in its ugliest form. Sweden needs very seriously to review its current laws restricting expression of opinions even when they are disgustingly racist or hateful. It is only when we are allowed a dialog can we refute and hopefully, persuade.
You can’t open a dialog if you won’t let people speak.