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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

What’s the Swedish Christian Democrats’ abortion contract all about?

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden's Christian Democrats on Monday presented an "abortion contract", which she wants all of Sweden's party leaders to sign. What's going on?

What's the Swedish Christian Democrats' abortion contract all about?

What’s happened? 

Ebba Busch, leader of Sweden’s Christian Democrat party, called a press conference on Monday in which she presented a document that she called “an abortion contract”, which was essentially a pledge to safeguard the right of women in Sweden to have an abortion.  

“There is room for signatures from all eight party leaders,” she said. “I have already signed on behalf of the Christian Democrats.” 

What does the so-called “abortion contract” say? 

The document itself is fairly uncontroversial.

It states simply that Sweden’s law on abortion dates back to 1974, and that it grants women the right to an abortion up until the 18th week of pregnancy, with women seeking abortions later in their pregnancy required to get permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare. 

“Those of us who have signed this document support Sweden’s abortion legislation and promise to defend it if it comes under attack from forces both within our country and from outside,” the document reads.  

Why have the Christian Democrats produced it? 

The decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade, and so allow US states to ban abortion has aroused strong feelings in Sweden, as elsewhere, and Busch is seeking to send a strong signal to distance her own Christian party from the US religious right. 

Abortion has been a recurring issue within the Christian Democrats with several politicians and party members critical of abortion. 

Lars Adaktusson, a Christian Democrat MP, was found by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper to have voted against abortion 22 times when he was a member of the European parliament. 

The party has also in the past campaigned for the right of midwives and other medical professionals who are ethically opposed to abortion not to have to take part in the procedure. 

So why aren’t all the other party leaders signing the document? 

Sweden’s governing Social Democrats, and their Green Party allies, dismissed the contract as a political gimmick designed to help the Christian Democrats distance themselves from elements of their own party critical of abortion. 

“It would perhaps be good if Ebba Busch did some homework within her own party to check that there’s 100 percent support for Sweden’s abortion legislation,” Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, said. “That feels like a more important measure than writing contracts between party leaders and trying to solve it that way.”  

In a debate on Swedish television, Green Party leader Märta Stenevi argued that it would be much more significant if Busch’s own MPs and MEPs all signed the document. 

It wasn’t other party leaders who needed to show commitment to abortion legislation, but “her own MPs, MEPs, and not least her proposed government partners in the Sweden Democrats and even some within the Moderate Party”. 

She said it made her “very very worried” to see that the Christian Democrats needed such a contract. “That’s why I see all this more as a clear sign that we need to move forward with protecting the right to abortion in the constitution,” she said. 

How have the other right-wing parties reacted? 

The other right-wing parties have largely backed Busch, although it’s unclear if any other party leaders are willing to actually sign the document. 

Tobias Billström, the Moderates’ group parliamentary leader, retweeted a tweet from Johan Paccamonti, a Stockholm regional politician with the Moderate Party, which criticised the Social Democrats for not signing it, however. 

“It seems to be more important to blow up a pretend conflict than to sign the Christian Democrats’ contract or look at the issue of [including abortion rights in] the constitution, like the Moderates, Liberals and Centre Party want to,” Paccamonti wrote. 

The Liberal Party on Sunday proposed protecting abortion rights in the Swedish constitution, a proposal which has since been backed by the Moderate party and the Centre Party

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