Jewish leader: Banning Islamic calls to prayer won’t help integration in Sweden

Jewish leader: Banning Islamic calls to prayer won't help integration in Sweden
A Mosque in Botkyrka, Stockholm. Photo: Leo Sellén/TT
The head of one of Sweden’s leading Jewish organizations says that indiscriminately preventing Mosques from holding calls to prayer would damage integration in the country.

Debate about the subject is starting to gather pace in Sweden after the leader of the Christian Democrats instructed local politicians to vote against allowing mosques to hold calls to prayer, following a request from a mosque in Växjö for a permit to do so. The leader of the Moderates has also expressed his skepticism.

Aron Verständig, chairperson of organization the Stockholm Jewish Community thinks the debate is misplaced, and has compared it to the way Jews were treated in Sweden in the 1700s, where there was hysteria over Jewish immigrants bringing instability to the country due to their unfamiliar customs.

“These kind of arguments have occurred throughout history. In Sweden we've always had them: people come here, then there are big demands placed on them in order to fit in, and that's not something that helps integration,” he told The Local after writing an opinion piece in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

“Rather, what helps integration is if you say to people: welcome to Sweden, here are the laws we have, everyone must follow them regardless, but beyond that, it makes no difference if you're a Muslim, you're a Christian, you're a Jew, whatever your religion is. I believe in that approach.”

The issue of whether calls to prayer are allowed or not should not even be a political question in the first place according to Verständig, but rather is one for the already existing laws over keeping the peace and public noise.

“There's a solution for this, and it's a solution that already exists. Look at Botkyrka, where the question came up, and it was decided that it actually isn't a political question, it's a question for the local environmental departments,” he noted.

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There is already a mosque in Stockholm suburb Botkyrka which holds a call to prayer on Fridays, and does so in line with the laws in the area. Its permit has recently been renewed and the council said it has received no complaints.

“There they had to adjust to the rules which exist. And it's not like there are thousands of Mosques asking for calls to prayer in Sweden, it's only one that asked recently and this thing came up, so the whole thing is being exaggerated. But it's an election year,” Verständig observed.

The head of the Stockholm Jewish Community believes that rejecting calls to prayer without basing the decision in the law would send a counter-productive message.

“The message to Muslims who come to Swedish should be: here there's nothing to stop you from being a good practising Muslim, but everyone has to follow Swedish laws. There's a difference between saying that you can't have a call to prayer, and saying that you can't have it whenever or wherever. You have to follow the laws and permits just like the people in Botkyrka do,” he concluded.

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