The Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir has launched a campaign under the slogan 'Use your voice – but not in the election', arguing that it is “sinful” for Muslims to take part in non-Islamic votes.
Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) is monitoring the campaign and has informed the Swedish Election Authority, as well as producing a handbook for communicators in order to help them deal with campaigns urging non-voting.
“MSB is primarily monitoring foreign influence activities and actors. The Hizb ut-Tahrir propaganda activity was identified in our general monitoring,” Mikael Tofvesson, head of MSB's global monitoring and analysis section, told The Local via email.
Kirstine Sinclair, a professor in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, told The Local the group has carried out similar activities in other countries. They are “well-known in connection with Danish general elections” for example, she said.
While it is not a violent group, the professor added that they “thrive on disagreement between majority non-Muslim and minority Muslim citizens”.
Hizb ut-Tahrir has shared videos via social media in which it says voting in Western elections is forbidden in Islam, as well as sharing images of members of the group outside Stockholm's mosque speaking to members of the public and handing out brochures.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir is continuing its campaign 'Use your voice but not in the election' by carrying out discussions with Muslims about how we can be engaged and have an impact on society without participating in the election,” they wrote alongside the photos.
The chairperson of the Swedish Islamic Association, which runs the mosque, told Sveriges Radio that the association did not support the campaign and that it encouraged Muslims to take part in elections. However, he added that the association did not have the power to control activities taking place outside the building.
Hizb ut-Tahrir describes itself as “a political party whose ideology is Islam”, describing its aim as the re-establishment of the Islamic state. It is active in dozens of countries worldwide, but has been banned by some including Germany and Russia.
There are no official membership figures, although more than 2,000 people follow its Swedish Facebook page.
It is not the only religious group to urge against election participation: Sweden's Jehovah's Witnesses, of whom there are around 23,000, are also discouraged from any involvement in politics, although the MSB's Tofvesson told The Local the agency had “no specific information regarding this”.