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Christian and Muslim leaders express support for Sweden’s Jewish community

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Christian and Muslim leaders express support for Sweden’s Jewish community
Police at the Gothenburg synagogue. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
18:49 CET+01:00
Malmö’s Archbishop and representatives from Muslim organisations have expressed their support for those who have suffered from anti-Semitic incidents this weekend, while Interior Minister Morgan Johansson said the threat against the Jewish community is being taken seriously.

Archbishop Antje Jackelén expressed her sympathy for those affected by ugly scenes in Malmö and Gothenburg this weekend in a column published in newspaper Dagen.

“I would like to assure you of the solidarity of the Swedish church in the fight against anti-Semitism and violence in the name of religion,” Jackelén wrote in an address to the Jewish communities in Malmö and Gothenburg.

Protestors were heard chanting anti-Semitic slogans at an unofficial protest in Malmö on Friday, while three people were arrested on suspicion of attempted arson against a synagogue in Gothenburg.

Protestors also burned an Israeli flag at a demonstration in Stockholm on Saturday.

In Malmö, Muslim representatives visited the city’s synagogue on Sunday to show their compassion for the Jewish congregation.

“We want to show sympathy and solidarity with Jews in Malmö and condemn all forms of racism and anti-Semitism in society,” Alaeddin al-Qut, head of the Ibn Rushd society, an Islamic study group, told SVT Nyheter Skåne.

A spokesperson for the Jewish community reacted positively to the gesture.

“This is a very good initiative. We may have different views, but it is important that we can have a normal conversation and speak to each other,” said Freddy Gellberg, spokesperson for Malmö’s Jewish community.

Per Eckerberg, bishop in the Gothenburg diocese, expressed his concern at the weekend’s events but added that dialogue and respect are the way forward.

“Today we have included the synagogue, the Jewish community and all Jewish citizens in our prayers. We stand by you and will defend your right to security, faith and identity in this city of yours and all of ours,” Eckerdal wrote in a press statement.

READ ALSO: Three arrested for Molotov cocktail attack on Gothenburg synagogue

Minister for Justice and Home Affairs Johansson said on Sunday that authorities were aware of the existing threat against Jewish individuals and organisations in Sweden.

Saturday’s attempted arson attack in Gothenburg has gained attention abroad, including that of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the oldest Jewish organisations in the United States.

The AJC wrote in a message on Twitter that, when it spoke to Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Foreign Minister Margot Wallström eighteen months ago, the two leading Swedish politicians “seemed quite oblivious” to the threat of anti-Semitic sentiment in the Scandinavian country.

“Over the last few years we have increased the capacity of the police security service [Säkerhetspolisens, Säpo, ed.]. I met representatives of the Jewish World Congress a month ago. This type of criticism was not made then,” interior minister Johansson said.

Johansson also said that good working relations between the police and individual communities were key, and that it is difficult to completely prevent incidents of the type seen.

The threat against Jewish communities also comes from different elements – white supremacist movements, Islamist groups and the extreme left, the minister said.

“White supremacist activity has also increased in recent times,” Johansson said.

Erik Nord, the leader of Greater Gothenburg Police, also said that the threat against Jews was multilateral.

“[Jewish communities] could be affected by violence from all of these three groups. The far left can be against Jewish interests because they are pro-Palestinian so take a strong anti-Israel stance. And that can also mean an anti-Jewish stance. The NMR [Neo-Nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement, ed.] and other extreme right wing groups are a threat to them, and religious extremism from Muslims can also be aimed at Jews,” Nord said.

“We have now had churches set on fire in Gothenburg and there have been attacks on mosques across Sweden. This shows that what is happening around the world quickly catches on and can have consequences for local society,” he continued.

Johansson said that there will now be discussion as to whether it is necessary to make changes to security measures already in place.

“It is always possible to do more. But we have a high level of alert and have allocated more money to the police and security services. We have given them better resources to gain more control over groups that can present a threat,” he said.

READ ALSO: How Malmö hopes to tackle anti-Semitism

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