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'We may see reprisal attacks in Sweden'

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'We may see reprisal attacks in Sweden'
Sweden's Uppsala mosque was attacked last week. Photo: TT
13:20 CET+01:00
Mohammed Fazlhashemi, Professor of Islamic theology and philosophy at Sweden's Uppsala University tells The Local that Muslims should fear counter attacks in other European nations.
My first reaction to the terror attack in Paris was that it was the worst kind of criminality and brutality possible. These were innocent, defenceless people who were only using their freedom of speech. When terrorists take people's lives, it's simply the worst thing that can happen.
 
We have seen these kind of terror attacks from other jihadist extremists since 2001, and we have seen people who identifying themselves as Muslims targeted by counter attacks in response. Mosques get vandalized. Burnt. 
 
And that risk still exists right now. It's happening already. Over Christmas Sweden saw several mosques getting torched. 
 
When it comes to what happened in Paris, I think we may see reprisal attacks in Sweden. The risk is definitely there, and I think the worry is there among Sweden's Muslims.
 
The mosque attacks in Sweden haven't come out of the blue, we've seen Islamophobic rhetoric gradually strengthening in Swedish society, and the effect has been that Muslims here are mistreated. 
 
We also know that the violent attacks have worsened ever since the Sweden Democrats came into Parliament two mandate periods ago. And are seeing verbal attacks from the politicians themselves. 
 
History is repeating itself. In the early nineties we saw the same thing when the New Democracy party came into Parliament. They were gone quickly but they were extremely xenophobic when they were around. And what happened? We saw a mosque in Trollhättan burned all the way to the ground. That was in 1993, and this is the history with which we can compare what's happening in Sweden today. 
 
When people use Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric, then violence increases in society. People act on what they're hearing. Islamophobia has been around for a long time, but when political parties get a voice, then we really see the effects. We already know the main characters in the Sweden Democrats who have shared anti-Islamic sentiment, everyone from Jimmie Åkesson to Kent Ekeroth. 
 
After what's happened in Paris, the Swedish government has to show that this is totally unacceptable. The other politicians must show that Sweden supports the right to the freedom of speech. They must show solidarity and support for everyone who is affected, and they must work against Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric.
 
These things have to go hand in hand, you can't focus on just one and forget the other. 
 
It's also important that we take the threat seriously in Sweden. These are extremists and they are capable of anything. We know how they act back in Syria and Iraq, we know what Isis can do, and we have to act accordingly. Sweden needs to strengthen its protection for all groups that can be affected by these extremists - everyone from journalists to religious minorities. 
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