Celebrity Swedes back call to fight xenophobia

Celebrity Swedes back call to fight xenophobia
A long list of prominent Swedes within politics, media, business and the arts have declared their support for a new campaign aimed at combating xenophobia in society.

“There is a dangerous xenophobic wind blowing across Sweden. It is forcing its way into our daily discourse. It is a loud noise in the public debate. But silence is no answer. We are today launching our call for the Sweden we want to live in,” the campaign “Sweden for all” declared in its launch on Saturday.

Hundreds of prominent Swedes have signed up to a petition which invites further signatories to back the calls for “the country we believe in, and the tolerance and diversity which best meets current and future challenges”.

Among the signatories are rapper Timbuktu, integration minister Erik Ullenhag, celebrity chef Tina Nordström, and World Cup-winning football coach Pia Sundhage.

The list is complemented by a list of high profile figures from all areas of public life.

“We have been motivated by frustration over the uneasy silence, not least within the business world,” businessman Jan Scherman, one of the initiative takers behind the campaign, explained to the Dagens Industri daily.

The campaign has been launched in the wake of two attacks with an apparent hate crime motive which have received widespread media coverage and debate both in Sweden and abroad.

The beating of a pregnant Muslim woman in the Stockholm suburb of Farsta in August, apparently due to her wearing a headscarf, prompted the so-called “hijab outcry”, which gained international attention.

The beating of a man of Gambian origin in Malmö last week has also been condemned after police classified the incident as a hate crime.

The campaign has however been ridiculed in some quarters with Sweden Democrat backed website Avpixlat describing the call for action as “a new meaningless campaign”.

“There is hardly any racism in Sweden today, there is however a criticism against the government immigration policy,” according to an unsigned opinion article on the website.

According to Crime Prevention Council (Brottsförebyggande rådet, Brå) statistics there were 5,518 police reports of hate crimes in Sweden in 2012, down 6 percent on 2008.

The council’s annual survey of people’s security and safety in society (Nationella trygghetsundersökning, NTU) for 2012 indicates that some 86,000 people (1.2 percent of the population) were subjected to 151,000 xenophobic hate crimes in 2011.

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