The junior coalition partners recent woes continued when newspaper Sydsvenskan revealed that Kamal al-Rifai had asked a well-known Saudi Salafist, Salman al-Ouda, to give a speech in Sweden’s third largest city.
Al-Rifai, an active party member in Burlöv and a Syrian Association board member, previously told Sydsvenskan he admired the 60-year-old al-Ouda, who has renounced his earlier support for violent jihadism. “Everyone loves him,” said al-Rifai, who has invited al-Ouda to speak in Malmö's central Folkets Park this Saturday.
But al-Ouda remains faithful to views that are deeply patriarchal and conservative, and has expressed an array of anti-Semitic view, the newspaper reports.
“It’s not possible to be linked to these kinds of extreme values while also being active in the Green Party,” the party’s chairman in Skåne, Fredrik Hanell, told the TT newswire.
Al-Rifai released a statement announcing his move away form politics:
“I realize now that my comments about Salman al-Ouda represent me alone and nobody else. I have not been particularly active in the party of late but will in any case take a time-out to consider my future in the party.”
Phillip Halldén, an expert on the Salafist branch of Islam, describes al-Ouda as an early source of inspiration for Osama bin-Laden, the al-Qaeda terrorist believed to have been the mastermind of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Al-Ouda condemned those attacks and now calls for a peaceful global transition to Islamic sharia law but he was greatly admired by bin-Laden before turning his back on jihad. He remains hugely influential and has 8.6 million followers on Twitter.
The Green Party finds itself in the midst of an existential crisis, with its leaders coming under increasing pressure to get the ship in order or step down.
Their recent troubles began when it emerged in mid-April that the then housing minister, Mehmet Kaplan, had kept company with Turkish extremists.
The party leaders, Gustav Fridolin and Åsa Romson, deflected the criticism, even when a clip showed up of Kaplan comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and they continued to back the minister after he announced his resignation at a joint press conference with the prime minster, Stefan Löfven.
They were not helped by a party veteran, Per Gahrton, who was widely derided for claiming Kaplan was the victim of an Israeli smear campaign.
Romson then found herself in the eye of the storm when she referred to the 9/11 terrorist attacks at “accidents”. She later clarified to The Local what she had meant but for many, the damage was done.
More trouble loomed around the corner when a rising star in the overtly feminist party, Yasri Khan, refused to shake a female journalist’s hand. He resigned but commentators were left wondering what had happened to the sweet little junior partner in Sweden’s government.
When pictures showed up of Green Party members including Mehmet Kaplan making Muslim Brotherhood signs, with four fingers held aloft, the head of Sweden's National Defence College said he feared the Greens had been infiltrated by Islamists.
The Green Party is the junior coalition partner in a government led by the Social Democrats.