Swedes and foreigners still poles apart

Sweden's treatment of minority groups came under the spotlight this week with a spate of articles suggesting that the country isn't quite as liberal as it would like to be.

Tuesday’s Metro followed up the front page news of “three ‘hate-crimes’ a day in central Stockholm” with a two-page special on how “Sweden is becoming increasingly segregated.”

“I have friends living in Rinkeby,” wrote journalist Anna Pascalidou, herself a Greek immigrant, “who say they can go a week without seeing a Swede.”

The problem is caused partly by bad planning and partly by bad attitudes, she said. “Housing policies have led to foreigners and Swedes living in different areas – there are now school classes where not one child has Swedish parents.”

“Many Swedes travel around the world, saying they want to meet new people and experience new cultures,” she continued, “but it’s another thing altogether when they’re at home.”

The comment section in Wednesday’s Svenska Dagbladet picked up the theme with an interview with Barbara Törnquist, a polish-born professor at Lund University. She came to Sweden as a student in the 80s and a few years later married a Swedish man.

“There was a lot of prejudice at the time, especially here in Skåne,” she said. “It was hard for my husband too – people had him marked as the sort of man who went to Poland and bought himself a wife.”

Törnquist pointed out that “our stereotypes of people tend to say more about ourselves than about those we are stereotyping”.

While that may be true, it will be of no comfort at all to Gothenburg’s gay men, many of whom have been stereotyped unconscious in a series of attacks over the last few weeks. The latest victim was Tobias Holdstock, a young politician who was followed and threatened with a knife after an evening in one of the city’s gay bars.

“Gothenburg is becoming a stronghold for nazi and homophobic activity,” he warned. “It’s time for the police to take these crimes seriously.”