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Malmö mayor concerned about Islam-critical show

The mayor of Malmö has slammed an upcoming exhibition of work by controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks, saying he hoped no one would visit the gallery to see artwork he said was "associated with xenophobes".

Malmö mayor concerned about Islam-critical show

“Of course he has the right to display what he calls art anywhere he wants,” Mayor Ilmar Reepalu told the TT news agency.

“But as far as I can gather, this is pretty bad art and I think they want to use the gallery for political ends,” he added.

“Vilks is increasingly associated in people’s minds with xenophobic groups at the far right of the political spectrum. I hope not a single person visits the gallery.”

News of the show, set to open in July, prompted representatives from different religions in the multicultural southern city to call an emergency meeting,

Some observers appeared frightened that the show would provoke a violent reaction.

“I urge everyone to avoid violence in their demonstrations, because then the cause will be lost,” said Björn Lagerbäck of the municipal anti-discrimination project Dialogforum.

Vilks has faced numerous death threats since his drawing of the Muslim prophet with the body of a dog was first published by Swedish regional daily Nerikes Allehanda in 2007. It was published to illustrate an editorial on free speech.

The new paintings of Muhammad would show the prophet – still with a dog’s body – transplanted into famous works by artists including Claude Monet, Peter Paul Rubens and Anders Zorn, Vilks told the AFP news agency.

It was “hard to tell” whether the July exhibition would prompt more protests and threats, he added.

“At some point this has to be over and done with,” said Vilks, who has already met with the police to discuss safety at the show.

In 2009, Colleen LaRose, an American woman calling herself “Jihad Jane”, was arrested in the US with seven others for plotting to kill Vilks. She has pleaded guilty to terror charges and faces life behind bars.

Three men accused of plotting to murder him at an art fair in Gothenburg were acquitted by a Swedish court in January, but were fined for weapons possession.

Vilks told TT that he was pleased that his art has been given the green light by curator Henrik Rönnquist.

“It’s a breakthrough that he dares to put these paintings on show now. I am not trying to kick up a stink, I’d sooner get rid of all the drama. People should be able to criticize Islam,” Vilks said.

The show’s curator said that he is prepared to tackle the safety concerns, in order to stand up for free speech, democracy, and religious freedom.

TT/The Local/AFP/og

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Sweden’s right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The four parties backing Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson as prime minister on Sunday announced that they had agreed to keep the current Speaker, Andreas Norlén in place, when the role is put to a vote as parliament opens on Monday.

Sweden's right-wing parties agree to bring back Norlén as Speaker 

The parties won a three-seat majority over the bloc led by the incumbent Social Democrats in Sweden’s general election on September 11th, and are currently in the middle of negotiating how they will form Sweden’s next government. 

Sweden’s parliament meets at 11am for the official installation of the 349 MPs for this mandate period. The votes for the Speaker and three Deputy Speakers are the first item on the agenda, after which the parties each select their parliamentary leaders and then vote on who should chair each of the parliamentary committees. 

READ ALSO: What happens next as parliament reopens? 

In a joint press release announcing the decision, the parties also agreed that the Sweden Democrats would be given eight of the 16 chairmanships the bloc will have of parliamentary committees in the next parliament, and that MPs for all four parties would back Julia Kronlid, the Sweden Democrats’ Second Deputy Leader, as the second deputy Speaker, serving under Norlén. 

In the press release, the parties said that Norlén had over the last four years shown that he has “the necessary personal qualities and qualifications which the role requires”. 

The decision to retain Norlén, who presided over the 134 days of talks and parliamentary votes that led to the January Agreement in 2019, was praised by Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson. 

Norlén, she said in a statement, had “managed his responsibilities well over the past four years and been a good representative of Sweden’s Riksdag.” 

The decision to appoint Kronlid was opposed by both the Left Party and the Green Party, who said that she supported tightening abortion legislation, and did not believe in evolution.

The Green Party’s joint leader Märta Stenevi said that her party “did not have confidence in Julia Kronlid”, pointing to an interview she gave in 2014 when she said she did not believe that humans were descended from apes.

The party has proposed its finance spokesperson Janine Alm Ericson as a rival candidate. 

The Left Party said it was planning to vote for the Centre Party’s candidate for the post second deputy Speaker in the hope of blocking Kronlid as a candidate.

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