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Silence won’t solve the problems with a multicultural society

The problems of a multicultural Swedish society won’t solve themselves if our politicians, in fear of being called a "racist", don't break their silence on the issues, argues equal rights activist Bahareh Andersson.

Silence won't solve the problems with a multicultural society

How can a state-owned radio channel, Sveriges Radio, allow an imam resident in Sweden to express a death threat against a whole group of people who have converted from Islam to Christianity?

A while ago I read an article on the internet which was unintelligible to me. The article made me imagine life in a country in the middle ages with rules and values which in no way fits a modern and democratic society like Sweden.

The Christian Dagen daily reported the following:

“It is every Muslim’s responsibility to kill those who leave Islam. This is what could be heard recently on Sveriges Radio, when an imam from Rinkeby was allowed to present a text on how you should act towards Somalis who convert to Christianity.”

I thought, at least this is better than the silence on Waberi (editor’s note: Moderate Party MP Abdirisak Waberi), but they don’t even write the name of the imam.

The silence of politicians and the media is deplorable and frightening! How can we interpret their silence?

The reticence in Sweden to discuss individual rights and their responsibilities is often hypocritical especially when it concerns people with immigrant backgrounds. All have rights, which is positive, although attached to those rights are responsibilities.

But it seems that no one wants to talk about that. Is this because of a reluctance to be called a racist? The word racist has become a fear factor to silence people or get them to move in the direction you want them to.

To me, racist means that you believe that all those of another ethnic origin than Swedish shall leave Sweden and that they have no right to be here. At the same time we know that fear of being called a racist often hinders us from reacting against groups or people who in the guise of culture, tradition or religion deprive others of their legal rights.

The consequence of this is the creation of an extreme cultural relativism.

We can not be silent when children are not allowed to participate in certain subjects in school, when young girls are married off or when boys are told by their families to keep watch over their sisters, for fear of being called a racist.

We can not be silent in fear of xenophobia when an imam in Sweden publicises death threats against a whole group of people. Today you are a racist as long as you don’t bend over backwards when meeting other cultures or religions.

This is something I really don’t understand!

These actions are wrong and can’t be accepted by Swedish society. To express fear that their children will become Swedish is to express a form of racism against Swedes.

I follow the integration debate in other countries and in France for example they are more courageous when it comes to making demands with regards to common and constructive values.

All is however not perfect in France but they at least have politicians (and I am not talking about the far-right) who are not afraid of expressing themselves freely and rationally without being called racists.

Naivety (or caution) which exists among our Swedish politicians is worrying and boosts extremists such as Abdirisak Waberi, who sits in the Riksdag defence committee (the man who wants to live in a country under sharia law as he said in an SVT documentary).

In France they have a saying – “To call a cat a cat”. One should call things by their real name and not try to make things up. To always be politically correct solves no problems.

I am thus not surprised but mostly disappointed by our hypocritical society when for example I am called an Islamaphobe, racist and masses of other made up smears just because I have the guts to write.

In conclusion I have to underline again that the integration debate and the problems with the multicultural society won’t solve themselves if our politicians don’t break their silence.

How can a state-owned radio channel, Sveriges Radio, allow an imam resident in Sweden to express a death threat against a whole group of people who have converted from Islam to Christianity?

How would society have reacted if a right-wing organisation had threatened a group of people who had broken their norms and values?

It is now time to break the trend and start to clean up.

The political establishment has neglected this over the course of several years. The consequences of this failure has been that, among other things, right-wing extremists have gained a foothold and been energised.

So, I agree with you Mauricio Rojas (editor’s note: Liberal Party politician who has written a series of reports on integration and asylum issues). The evidence suggests that the immigrant debate is still far from “the bounds of open-heartedness” and even further away from sober and reasoned discourse. That’s just too bad for Sweden!

Bahareh Andersson is an equal rights activist who works with honour society issues.

This article was originally published in Swedish on the Newsmill opinion website. English translation by The Local

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Swedish Iranians complain of ‘drastic drop’ in visas for relatives

Iranians living in Sweden are complaining that relatives are no longer being granted visas to visit, causing pain and heartbreak for one of Sweden's most established immigrant communities.

Swedish Iranians complain of 'drastic drop' in visas for relatives

“This has affected our community very greatly,” Kamran Chabokdavan, spokesperson for the Swedish-Iranian interest group, or Intresseföreningen för Svensk-Iranska frågor, told The Local. “There’s so many people who are feeling depressed or mistreated.”

He had planned to marry his Swedish partner in 2019, but has still not been able to as his parents have not been able to get a visa to come to Sweden, despite visiting, and returning back to Iran several times before. 

“If it was the first time that my parents came here, then it would be more reasonable to say that we cannot be sure that you will go back,” Chabokdavan, who works as a vet in Gothenburg, said. “But if the person has been here ten times before, and suddenly you decide to reject the application, that is a little bit odd.” 

The group now has 2,000 members on Facebook and has contacted the embassy in Tehran, Sweden’s foreign ministry, and MPs in two of Sweden’s political parties, who Chabokdavan said had promised to raise the issue in their parties and to the government.

Chabokdavan told The Local that many Iranians were suffering from the shift to a stricter visa policy. 

“Another member in our group had a sister who was a late-stage cancer patient at the hospital, and her parents couldn’t come here to say goodbye to her.” 

Rozita Akrami, a data scientist at Ericsson, also a group member, has collected data showing that Sweden is now the worst country in the Schengen area for giving visiting visas to Iranians, with only 35 percent of visa applications by friends and relatives of citizens accepted. 

She claims there was a “drastic drop” in the acceptance rate, from 55 per cent in 2018 to 35 percent in 2019, with France accepting 75 percent of visa applications from residents’ relatives that year and Switzerland 79 percent. 

“It seems that the Swedish embassy in Iran has decided to apply stricter criteria, which are really, really unclear,” Chabokdavan said. “It’s really not clear what’s the criteria is here, or why they are rejecting so many documents.” 

In a judgement from last week, the Migration Court ruled that the tougher approach taken by the Swedish embassy in Tehran was justified by a recent rise in the number of Iranians granted visas to Sweden who had then decided to stay and apply for asylum.  

“The embassy further notes that in recent years hundreds of Iranian citizens have applied for residency in Sweden after travelling in on a visa that had been granted,” the court said, justifying its decision to reject an appeal. 

“The embassy can point to the Migration Agency’s reports that a several of these people had had been granted visas previously, even several visas. As a result, visas previously awarded are not a strong indicator of an intention to return.” 

In its judgement, it also noted that sanctions against Iran had resulted in a “severely worsened economy”, with “high unemployment and a weakened currency”, while also pointing to growing “repression of religious minorities” and “imprisonment of political dissidents”. 

In a letter to the embassy in Tehran the group complained that there was no mechanism to replace documents rejected by the Swedish authorities, or to send in missing documents. The group also called for clarity on how applicants’ economic situation was assessed and how relevant it was, and called for the embassy to publish its official statistics from 2015 to 2022. 

“This is about parents who have lived for 60 to 70 years in their homeland and visited Sweden several times while always leaving the Schengen region before their visa has expired,” they wrote. 

Chabokdavan said that in some of the rejection letters, applicants had been told that the worsening economic situation in Iran made Sweden’s authorities worried that visiting relatives would not now return. 

Other rejection letters, he said, had stressed that just because the applicant had visited Sweden and then returned home to Iran many times before, did not mean that they could be relied upon to do so again. 

He said that it was unclear what documents would be enough to prove how well established and tied to Iran the visa applicants are. 

Iranians, who came to Sweden both after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, are one of Sweden’s most successful migrant groups, with 60 percent getting a university education, and many working within universities, or in high skilled professions.   

“These are people who are really established in Sweden by their job or their studies,” Chabokdavan said. “And their parents usually have a strong, economical base in Iran, otherwise, they couldn’t get this kind of visa from the beginning.”

The Local has contacted the Swedish foreign ministry and the embassy in Tehran for comment.