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Swedish school slammed after ‘homo sin’ claim

A independently-run Christian school in Stockholm has been criticised by the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) after being reported for presenting homosexuality as a sin in its teaching.

Swedish school slammed after 'homo sin' claim

“The Schools Inspectorate has criticised… Andreas Gymnasium for not having followed the statutory requirements with regard to the school’s fundamental values and work to prevent and hinder students from being subjected to degrading treatment,” the inspectorate wrote in its decision.

The inspectorate furthermore adds that the incident is particularly serious as the school has been criticised before for not taking measures to protect students from harassment.

Andreas Gymnasium, a school for students aged 16-19-years-old located in Solna, was reported to the Schools Inspectorate by a student in February 2010.

The report contained allegations that teachers at the school had on several occasions presented homosexuality as a sin, a view upheld by the school’s principal at the time during an assembly.

“Most of the school’s students are in agreement with the principal that homosexual acts are sinful and those who don’t think the same risk being frozen out,” the student wrote in the report.

“Something has to be done against the prevailing attitudes towards homosexuality shown by certain teachers and students,” the student argued.

The school’s current principal, Therése Wallén, who was appointed after the incidents described in the report, told The Local on Wednesday that the school has accepted the inspectorate’s criticism and plans to address the situation.

“We have to work harder to develop our equal treatment plan,” she said.

Many of the incidents described by the student occurred during discussions specifically concerning how to address the school’s value-system covering issues such as race, gender and sexuality.

As a basis for the discussion a reading was made of texts from the bible. The student argued that the verses were interpreted by the principal to present her view that homosexuality is a sin.

Therése Wallén explained that while the bible is used in religious teaching at the school, she argued that it is not used as a basis for other teaching.

“It is true that the then principal gave the bible’s view on homosexuality. I think it was wrong that it was used on this occasion and that no further discussion was held,” she said.

The Schools Inspectorate noted that the school had declined to deny the student’s claims that members of its staff have forwarded views linking homosexuality and sin.

When asked by the The Local for her opinion as a representative of the school on the issue, Thérese Wallén replied:

“We don’t think it is the school’s role to express a view on the issue. We follow the law and treat all people equally regardless of sexuality.”

The Schools Inspectorate has reminded the school of its responsibilities according to existing legislation and has called on them to submit a report on measures adopted to address the complaints by July 2011.

Andreas Gymnasium was previously criticised in 2007 by the Schools Inspectorate with regards to the deficient development of its value-system.

The school has also received media attention in the past after a former principal told Sveriges Television that its teaching provides for students for learn alternatives to the theory of evolution, such as creationism and “intelligent design”.

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Swedish police underestimated the level of violence that awaited them and should have called a halt to Danish-Swedish extremist Rasmus Paludan’s demos as soon as it became clear the riots were spiralling out of control, argues journalist Bilan Osman. 

‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Speaking to The Local for the Sweden in Focus podcast, out this Saturday, Osman said she understood why the police had allowed the demonstrations to go ahead in the first place but that the safety of civilians and police officers should have taken precedence when the counter-demonstrations turned violent. 

“Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s an easy question. I think everyone, regardless of views or beliefs, should have the right to demonstrate,” said Osman, who writes for the left-wing Dagens ETC newspaper and previously lectured for the anti-racist Expo Foundation.

“I understand people who say that violence [from counter-demonstrators] shouldn’t be a reason to stop people from demonstrating. I truly believe that. But at the same time: was it worth it this time when it’s about people’s lives and safety?” 

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

“I think the police honestly misjudged the situation. I understand why Paludan was allowed to demonstrate the first day. It’s not the first time he has burned the Koran in Sweden. When he burned the Koran in Rinkeby last year nothing happened. But this time it was chaos.” 

Osman noted that Rasmus Paludan did not even show up for a planned demonstration in her home city of Linköping – but the police were targeted anyway. 

“I know people who were terrified of going home. I know people who had rocks thrown in their direction, not to mention the people who worked that day, policemen and women who feared for their lives. So for the safety of civilians and the police the manifestations should have been stopped at that point. Instead it went on, not only for a second day but also a third day and a fourth day.” 

On the question of whether it was acceptable to burn Islam’s holy book, Osman said it depended on the context. 

“If you burn the Koran mainly to criticise religion, or even Islam, of course it should be accepted in a democracy. The state should not only allow these things, but also protect people that do so. 

“I do believe that. Even as a Muslim. That’s an important part of the freedom of speech. 

A previous recipient of an award from the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism for her efforts to combat prejudice in society, Osman drew parallels with virulent anti-Semitism and said it was “terrifying” that Paludan was being treated by many as a free speech campaigner rather than a far-right extremist.  

“If you are a right-wing extremist that wants to ethnically cleanse, that wants to cleanse Muslims from Sweden, and therefore burn the Koran, it’s actually dumb to think that this is a question about freedom of speech. When Nazis burn everything Jewish it’s not a critique against Judaism, it’s anti-Semitism.” 

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Sweden tended to come in waves, Osman said, pointing to 9/11 and Anders Behring Brevik’s attacks in Norway as previous occasions when Islamophobia was rampant. Now the Easter riots had unleashed a new wave of hatred against Muslims that she described as “alarming” and the worst yet. 

“I do believe that we will find a way to coexist in our democracy. But we have to put in a lot work. And Muslims can’t do that work alone. We need allies in this.” 

Listen to more from Bilan Osman on the April 23rd episode of Sweden in Focus: Why Sweden experienced its worst riots in decades.

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