Tension following removal of Malmö mosque activists

Tension following removal of Malmö mosque activists
Tempers flared in Malmö on Monday morning as riot police used dogs to clear three protesters out of a basement office which has served as a mosque for more than a 15 years, but had been ordered closed back on November 24th.

“The removal took place calmly. There were three people, ages sixteen to eighteen, when we came and all three have been taken in for questioning,” said Skåne police spokesperson Mikael Persson to the TT news agency.

But outside the building, a crowd had gathered to voice their frustration over the closing and the police decision to forcefully remove the protesters.

Basem Mahmoud, a spokesperson for the svensk-jordanska vänskapsföreningen (‘Swedish-Jordanian Friendship Association), felt that the police had broken an agreement and shown a lack of respect for the mosque by entering the premises wearing shoes and with dogs in tow.

“I fear that this may lead to unrest,” he told TT.

The three young people were taken by police on suspicions of trespassing.

The space had been used by the Islamiska kulturföreningen (‘Islamic Cultural Association’) and other organizations for the past 15 years, until the group was informed last summer that its lease would not be renewed.

Representatives from the group felt the move was discriminatory, while city officials and representatives from the building management company, Contentus, claimed the decision was part of an effort to transform a nearby park and the adjoining office space for new uses.

“Why do they have to take our space?” Mahmoud asked the Sydsvenskan newspaper back in August when plans were announced.

“The city and Contentus can easily find another locations, they have the whole of Malmö to choose from.”

The space is scheduled to house classes organized jointly by city housing officials, police, and housing companies to instruct newly arrived immigrants about their rights and responsibilities as tenants in Swedish rental apartments.

“The classes will benefit the entire area, not only members of the cultural association,” local council member Ilmar Reepalu told Sydsvenskan at the time.

After being emptied on November 24th, the space was immediately occupied by a group of young people who vowed to guard the location around the clock until a better solution could be found.

However, the leadership of the Islamic Cultural Association made it clear at the time they did not want the group to be associated with the protesters.

The matter was reported last week to police, setting the stage for Monday’s police action.