Another side of Malmö’s infamous Rosengård

While Malmö's Rosengård neighbourhood is often the subject of negative headlines, the multi-ethnic district is slowly becoming a model for positive change in Sweden's third largest city, contributor Patrick Reilly discovers.

Another side of Malmö's infamous Rosengård
The omen of the Yalla Trappan restaurant; Drömmarnas Hus youth charity

Mention the name Rosengård to anybody in Malmö and you are guaranteed to be met with an opinion – good, bad and frequently ugly.

It’s not a place that provokes a neutral response and normally only makes the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Located just over four kilometres from the city centre, Rosengård is usually referred to as a suburb.

Click here for a walking tour through the streets of Rosengård

Despite the close proximity to central Malmö, it feels remote and separated from the rest of Sweden’s third largest city.

“Mentally, Rosengård is a suburb but geographically it isn’t,” Dick Fredholm, the head of public relations for the City District of Rosengård, tells The Local.

Unless one lives or works in Rosengård, most people in Malmö are unlikely to make the short journey to the district.

Rents are generally cheaper here – often more than 1,000 kronor ($150) less per month for a two room apartment compared with elsewhere in the city – and the image of a dangerous multi-ethnic community in chaos persists.

More often than not, an unfair national media is blamed for further tarnishing Rosengård’s reputation.

Reporters flock here in droves at the merest hint of trouble and even America’s Fox News arrived in 2003 to portray Rosengård as a virtual war zone to the world.

On one occasion, a media pack descended after hearing of a fire which turned out to have been caused by a malfunctioning electrical fan.

A visiting sheriff from Los Angeles specializing in violent extremism said Rosengård’s biggest problem was its public relations.

“Traditionally it has had connotations with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, falafel, fires and riots but there is an everyday life in between which is quite similar to the rest of Malmö and other parts of Sweden,” adds Fredholm.

Built in the 1960s as part of the Million Programme (Millionprogram) home construction project, Rosengård has long been associated with immigrants.

Most of the original residents came for work, but in more recent times it has hosted a number of refugees from the Middle East.

And a walk through Rosengård nevertheless reveals obvious differences compared to many other parts of Sweden, with shops advertising their produce in both Swedish and Arabic, for example.

A shopping trolley has a message in four languages while the local supermarket points out that its offerings are 100 percent halal.

Pop into the local library and one finds an assortment of Macedonian, Albanian and Arabic titles to name just a few.

Walking into the shopping centre one hears a medley of languages being spoken with Swedish not always audible.

It is estimated that 86 percent of Rosengård residents have immigrant backgrounds, with most having roots in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

And the way the area is often portrayed in the media might lead one believe that these disparate groups are at war with each other.

But the reality on the ground is rather different.

One of Rosengård’s most popular haunts is the Yalla Trappan restaurant. Staffed solely by immigrant women, the eatery’s Middle Eastern-themed menu draws a dedicated clientele of locals…of all nationalities.

“Most of these women have never worked and have no education from their own country. Many of them suffer from depression,” says Dorotha Trusz, director of Yalla Trappan which provides work and education opportunities for local women.

“They have only been mothers and never had another role, so they feel isolated when they get here.”

The group has branched out into corporate catering and is opening another restaurant elsewhere in Malmö.

“Yalla Trappan is a door to another opportunity. Our idea is to give women a chance to show how Swedish society operates so they can do something good for themselves and also for Sweden,” Trusz adds.

A short walk from Yalla Trappan is Rosengård’s very own “White House” complete with a West Wing.

Drömmarnas Hus (‘The House of Dreams’) has been transforming the lives of the local youth for over two decades.

Its current project, Mitt Område (‘My Area’), gives youngsters media skills and has proven to be particularly successful.

Local young people who participated in Mitt Område recently produced a well-received web-tv drama series called ‘Under.’

It’s a love story set in the area with fantasy elements including a magical fish which connects people.

“The kids we meet identify themselves as being from Rosengård, not from Malmö. Often they cannot identify with the media picture of the area,” Sanna Bang Olsson, Youth Coordinator of Mitt Område tells The Local.

“We encourage participation, democracy and engage young people to be a positive influence to give a more nuanced picture of Rosengård.”

Young people also get an opportunity to speak their mind on local radio with a weekly 90 minute broadcast hosted by teenagers discussing topics which affect their community.

On a recent broadcast, a quartet of teens with Palestinian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Afghan heritage had a lively debate about immigration and what it means to be Swedish.

As a follow up, representatives from the local police are expected to make an appearance on air to answer questions from the youth.

The district’s local recreation centre is famous for boxing and is used for a variety of purposes.

After the local mosque mysteriously burned down in 2003 following an attack on the Islamic Center, on Fridays the rec centre also serves as a place of worship for the Muslim community.

However, Rosengård’s willingness to adapt to its community is both a blessing and a curse according to Trusz.

“It is a big mistake to translate everything into people’s native languages. Why bother to learn Swedish when your own language is spoken here. It is too easy,” says the Yalla Trappan director.

And the district has its fair share of challenges.

A damning report on the standard of local schools last year revealed an alarming number of pupils don’t go on onto upper secondary education.

“Results in the schools are so bad, 50 percent of the students that leave ninth grade go to upper secondary school so 50 percent go and do nothing which creates frustration,” Fredholm, of the Rosengård district council laments, explaining that improving neighbourhood schools has become a top priority.

“There are too few students so the size of the classrooms is being changed so there is more money for teachers per student.”

Ambitious plans are also being drawn up that call for the creation of railway station in Rosengård that will give the district a direct link to Malmö’s city centre.

Hundreds of new student apartments are also in the pipeline and constructing the district’s own high rise tower is also under consideration.

There is even a project inspired by a literal English translation of the district’s Swedish name that calls for a world leading rose garden to be created in Rosengård so the area finally lives up to its name.

Despite the negative headlines, the multi-ethnic district is a community proud of its identity with visitors greeted by a quote from their most famous son – footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic – saying you can take the boy out of Rosengård but not the Rosengård out of the boy.

Innovative social projects, a responsive community and better communications mean the image of Rosengård as a crime-ridden ghetto is slowly changing.

Although the job is unlikely to stop there, as a similar image rehabilitation task is likely to be carried out for the whole of Malmö as well.

“The image that Rosengård had or has is being passed on to the image of Malmö now. What we have been doing here for two years will likely have to be done for the city also,” Fredholm explains.

Thus Rosengård appears to be setting the trend for positive change that locals hope will expand to the rest of Malmö, as residents of other neighbourhoods in the city begin to see the once outcast district as a potential model for future improvements to the city as a whole

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Riots erupt in Malmö after far-right activists burn Koran

At least 10 people were arrested, and several police officers injured, in violence which broke out in southern Sweden after an anti-Muslim Danish politician was blocked from attending a Koran-burning rally, police said on Saturday.

Riots erupt in Malmö after far-right activists burn Koran
Rioters burn tyres on Amiralsgatan, Malmö on Friday night. Photo: TT
Well over 300 rioters were on Malmö's Amiralsgatan street, south of the Rosengård Centrum shopping centre, smashing bus shelters, overturning lampposts and destroying billboards. 
According to Malmö police, about 15 suspected rioters were arrested during the night, in violence which broke out in southern Sweden after a Koran-burning rally by far-extremists. Rasmus Paludan, leader of Denmark's far-Right anti-immigration Hard Line party was blocked from attending.
All of those arrested were released on Saturday morning. Police told The Local that about 13 people were likely to be charged with rioting offences, and told Sydsvenskan that they were currently looking for a few individuals who they suspected of encouraging young men at a peaceful demonstration to turn violent. 
“It's not right,” Malmo resident Shahed told the SVT public broadcaster. “But it wouldn't have happened if they hadn't burnt the Koran,” he added.
Rasmus Paludan, who leads the far-right Danish anti-immigration party Hard Line, was due to travel to Malmo to speak at Friday's event, which was being held on the same day as main weekly prayers for Muslims.
But authorities pre-empted Paludan's arrival by announcing he had been banned from entering Sweden for two years. He was later arrested near Malmo.
“We suspect that he was going to break the law in Sweden,” Calle Persson, spokesman for the police in Malmo told AFP.
“There was also a risk that his behaviour… would pose a threat to society.”
But his supporters went ahead with the rally, during which six people were arrested for inciting racial hatred.
“It hurts,” Salim Mohammed Ali, a Muslim resident of Malmo for over 20 years, told SVT on Saturday.
“People get angry and I understand that, but there are other ways of doing things,” he added.
Paludan last year attracted media attention for burning a Koran wrapped in bacon — a meat that is anathema for Muslims.   
Malmo is an industrial city of 320,000 inhabitants. In 2017, more than half the city's population, 53.6 percent, were either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent. 
The riot started at around 7pm and continued up until 3am in the morning. 
The trouble flared after an incident earlier in the day in which members of Denmark's far-right Hard Line (Stram Kurs) party burned a copy of the Islamic holy book in the Malmö district of Emilstorp.
Police blocked off the street at the crossroads with Norra Grängebergsgatan, with the police presence increasing through the night until there were dozens of vans, several of which were armoured riot vans. 
Rioters pelted the police with stones, street furniture, burnt tyres and fired off fireworks, flares and bangers. 
“No member of the public has been wounded, but a few police officers are lightly wounded. Things have just been raining down on them,” Söderberg told TT. 
Patric Fors, another police spokesperson, said that police would be out on the streets of Rosengård on Saturday morning. 
“We have kept checks out there during the night but it remained calm, now this morning we're going to put in place confidence-building measures. Police will be moving around on feed, and talking with residents,” he told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. 
Samir Muric, a Malmö imam, condemned the rioters on his Facebook page. 
“Those who are acting in this way have nothing to do with Islam,” he wrote. Their shouts filled with 'la ilaha ill Allah' and 'Allahu Akbar' are just outbursts that they do not mean, because if they really meant that, they wouldn't have acted like this.” 
He said he was against all forms of burning “whether it's of the Koran or of tyres and crates”.