According to Mohamed Omar, a 34-year-old author and commentator born in Uppsala in eastern Sweden, he is prepared to welcome all political stripes into his new party – from the radical left and Islamic extremists to neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists – as long as they subscribe to the party’s core principles.
“We’re going to focus not on Islamic questions, but solely on anti-Zionism in order to reach out to as many as possible,” Omar told the Sveriges Radio (SR) documentary programme Kaliber.
On his website, Omar denies that the Holocaust happened and refers to Judaism as “a parasitic culture of greed”.
The Omar of today is a far cry from the measured and moderate man who once edited one of Sweden’s most respected Muslim publications, Minaret magazine, and condemned protests by Muslims angered by the 2007 decision of Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda to publish a drawing by artist Lars Vilks depicting the head of Muslim prophet Muhammad on a dog’s body.
“I think the demonstration is counterproductive and will only serve to reinforce any prejudices people have about Muslims,” Omar told The Local in August 2007.
“Nerikes Allehanda published the picture to illustrate a story. It’s irrational to regard their decision to publish as being offensive to Muslims.”
According to Omar, Israeli incursions into the Gaza strip in the second half of 2008 played a key role in his radicalization.
“Last week I joined a protest against Israel for the first time,” Omar wrote in an opinion article published in the Expressen newspaper on January 9th, 2009.
“The latest bloodbath was simply too much. I felt compelled to take a public stance. But not only that. I decided to support Hamas and Hezbollah – the Islamic resistance movements.”
He concludes by declaring, “I’m a radical Muslim. And I say that with pride.”
Soon thereafter he began arguing that Zionism was to blame for a number of Sweden’s problems, including the disturbances which plagued the Rosengård neighbourhood in Malmö in December 2008.
“Besides, the big threat today is the Zionists. Today there are Zionists collecting money for the Israeli murder machine which used the money to burn children,” Omar said on the Sveriges Television’s Aktuellt news programme broadcast on January 29th.
A number of former allies have distanced themselves from Omar following his radicalization, including the current editor of Minaret, Abd al Haqq Kielan.
“He’s basically become a full blown extremist, seasoned with a bit of Islamic spice, but he doesn’t represent Islam in any way,” Kielan told Kaliber.
Members of Sweden’s pro-Palestinian movement (Palestinarörelsen) are also keeping their distance from the new Omar.
“Today he functions as sort of a front man for fascism in this country and he pushes the most egregious anti-Semitic propaganda that I’ve seen in a long time,” said commentator and Palestinian movement supporter Andreas Malm to SR.
“What upset me most is that he’s trying to dress it up as pro-Palestinian.”
Omar is short on details about his planned anti-Zionist political party, simply telling Sveriges Radio that “we’re working on it”. He added that he has drawn inspiration from France’s Parti Anti Sioniste, another anti-Zionist party.
Historian Henrik Bachner, an expert on anti-Semitism in Sweden, is concerned that the country remains fertile ground for extremist views like Omar’s.
“The danger with what Mohammed Omar and those close to him are trying to say with their propaganda today is that there may be a larger readiness among certain strands of opinion to latch on to it,” Bachner told SR.