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RELIGION

Swedish grocers revel in Ramadan profits boost

Swedish food retailers are expecting a record turnover in the weeks to follow, with Muslim fasting month Ramadan beginning on Friday, a festival only bested by Christmas in terms of turnover for Malmö grocers.

Swedish grocers revel in Ramadan profits boost

“Our turnover definitely increases over Ramadan, even if I can’t give you any exact numbers. But after Christmas this is one of our main holidays,” said Henrik Grahm, of the City Gross supermarket in Rosengård, Malmö, to daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).

Nine years ago, when the chain first established itself in the area, the supermarket got it wrong and failed to foresee what products would be sought after, according to Grahm.

Related photo gallery: What do Stockholmers know about Ramadan?

“We had no sense for what people wanted. We had purchased a large number of vine leaves that no one wanted while other products sold out at once,” Grahm revealed to the paper.

However, nine years on, the supermarket has learned from previous mistakes and has taken advice from both customers and staff.

“There’s a lot of demand on things like feta cheese, preserves, alcohol-free beer and sweets. And we also try to buy in new brands,” said Grahm to DN.

According to the paper, City Gross also changes its displays ahead of Ramadan, to give the sought after products a more prominent position in the shop – just like they do at Christmas.

And according to Swedish retailing employers’ organization Svensk Handel, the total consumption in Sweden over Ramadan totals some 1.3-1.6 billion kronor ($187.4 million – $230.6 million) with an increase of average food costs with 1,700 kronor per person.

The agency has actively been working with educating Swedish retailers about Muslim holidays in order to generate new customer groups and better meet consumer demand, according to DN.

“Before, retailers tended to think ‘they aren’t even eating’ but today most have realized that this is a customer group that has money to spend,” said Meta Troell of Svensk Handel to DN.

She added that despite the daylight hours are spent fasting, those who celebrate Ramadan often have feasts in the evening, with friends and family invited.

Despite Swedish food stores having caught on what an important holiday Ramadan is, Troell said that toy stores and interior decorating shops have been slower on the uptake.

“This is a holiday when you make your home look nice and buy toys for the children – something that shops don’t seem to realize,“ she told the paper.

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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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