Islamophobia, modern Muslims, antisemitism and the secular Sweden

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The debate is boiling in Sweden concerning the topics of democracy, gender equality, religion, Islam, islamism and antisemitism. A couple of weeks ago Omar Mustafa, head of the Islamic Association in Sweden was elected as member of the Social Democratic party board. That quickly provoked reactions all round Sweden…. Mainly among secular or modern Muslims who rejected the choice. They protested that Omar Mustafa had made statements that were antisemitic on Twitter and showed one tweet where he wished to see Israel bombed, and also that he had invited guest lecturers that stood for very strict patriarch, antidemocratic, misogyn and antisemitic values. Carin Jämtin and other Social Democrats protested and said that Omar Mustafa often talks nicely about gender equality and have good values in his work. Some Swedish Muslims or people from Muslim countries protested again and said that they had experienced the terror of Islamic rule first hand and presented new information. As head of the Islamic Association Omar Mustafa represents a certain way of seeing the belief system which is very distinct in how the family is percieved with absolute male dominance. It can be seen here: It is written by e.g. one of the guests that Mustafa sometimes refers to and has invited, Dr Yousef Al-Qaradawi.

One of those who took the debate is a bright, well-educated woman called Bahareh Andersson. She is working in Hörby as protector of women’s safety. I met Bahareh already in the autumn of 2004 and we socialised a bit for a while, and over the years she has continued to educate herself and work against violence against women, against old-fashioned structures and a modern society. All in all Bahareh who’s married to a Swedish man is also a Muslim feminist. She grew up in Iran during the 1970’s and 1980’s and was traumatized there. She fled the Islamic ruled Iran, but refuses to renounce her faith in Islam as a religion, but is one of many who tries to from the inside develop the Muslim feminism and modern democratic values. Bahareh Anderson is very active and writes lots of articles concerning gender equality, female empowerment and against honour-related violence. And she is not alone. When she learned of the Social Democratic choice of Omar Mustafa she became very upset. The last days she has been very active on Facebook and in other media, as well as been interviewed on TV.

Another person who protested was a man also with his roots in Iran, Nima Gholam Ali Pour. This man also fled the theocratic rule when he was young. He has been an active Social Democrat here in Malmoe for seven or eight years, but he is very much against the totalitarian values that more conservative Muslims stand for. After the election of Omar Mustafa Nima decided to leave the party in protest and continue as an independent debater. I have discussed these topics with Nima several times recently. Nima Gholam Ali Pour has also bravely taken a clear stand against the antisemitic expressions in this town, where Jews get harrassed for being just Jews. Most of those who harrass them are Muslims, even if not only. Since there are more Muslims than Jews in Malmoe there have been a difficult but also dangerous situation for them, but Nima has time and again distinctly told us in debates and articles where the problems are. Others that have protested against the election have been for example Sara Mohamed, Nina Nazanin Karlsson, and one of my former mentor pupils, a young Muslim woman of Kosova-Albanian origin.

Last week was intense in this debate and last Saturday Omar Mustafa was asked to leave his new position within the Social Democratic leadership. The Social Democrats have been accused of vote angling Muslim voters by choosing from an Islamic organisation. The Conservative Party has since several years back a man called Waberi who used to be head of the Islamic Association. The debate has been fierce these days and both Mustafa and Waberi have been discussed and the values that a Muslim man might have four wives, might hit her lightly if she’s disobedient, that the man is the patriarch of the family etc.

The debate continues now. Some Muslims say that they are angry at the Social Democrats because they decided to remove Omar Mustafa after a week, and this only proves that Sweden is Islamophobic and they won’t vote for them again. Other Muslims are angry that the Social Democrats even considered to choose him as a “Muslim representative”, while there are so many others who actually work for more modern and democratic values. The Social Democratic party leader Stefan Löfvén said concerning this debate: “You can’t be elected into the Social Democrats if you don’t completely stand for the party values about all people’s equal value and equality between women and men.”
One article today said that if someone of “ordinary Swedish origin” had invited guests with antidemocratic values no-one had reacted, like when journalist Stina Dabrowski invited representatives from the racist web-site Avpixlat to Publicistklubben. They have a point there. If you are a Muslim or has some kind of immigrant background it is much tougher. You always “represent” all the others and always get questions about your origin, who you are and your values. Even if you have “democratic” values you have to prove it all the time and I know many Muslims and others who are extremely fed-up with that constant stigmatization and being seen as culprits or potential monsters all the time. That prejudiced expectation also contributes to an anger and frustration among some of them. Some women who didn’t use to wear hijab/veil before do that now in protest against what they see as an accusation of Islam as a whole and of all Muslims. Young Muslim men are being recruited by the conservative mosques and greeted as brothers in faith. We have to consider that there isn’t one interpretation, but several schools and interpretations. Yesterday 100 people protested in Stockholm in favour of Omar Mustafa. Nima Gholam Ali Pour wrote earlier today that there are 450 000 Muslims in Sweden, but only 100 protested. The demonstration was arranged by Hjärta – troende socialdemokrater i Stockholm/Heart – believing Social Democrats in Stockholm. When I wrote to Bahareh Andersson the other day I reminded her of “ijtihad”/renewal. It’s a concept within Islam that allows every new generation Muslims to evolve the faith in accordance with the own times. However, ijtihad is often used by the mullahs and other scholars to safe-guard a fairly conservative interpretation. Another concept is Taqiya, protecting the faith from outer threat by showing one side in the open and internally work for something else.

We also have to remember that there does exist true Islamophobia. Muslims are rejected from settling down, excluded from jobs, Muslim women with hijab are bullied and attacked for wearing veil, mosques are attacked physically. There does exist hatred against all Muslims no doubt, and members of parties such as Sverigedemokraterna/The Swedish Democrats use the same information as I have used here, but they twist it into hateful instigation and hatefuI generalization of all Muslims and Islam as such. I for one hope that Bahareh and other Muslim feminists and others who actually believe in gender equality and democratic values succeed in evolving their faith. There are already Muslim feminists, and women in Muslim countries have been opposing the old rules for decades, but are still harshly opposed.

Does this make us Westerners so much better? Absolutely not, I say. That would be hipocracy to say. We too have hatred and opposition of women. We have inequality, hatred, persecutions and rejections of groups and individuals in society that are utterly undemocratic, cowardly and cynical. Still we must continue working for democratic values. Today Israel celebrates 65 years as an independent state. The Jews celebrate, while Palestinians talk about An-Nakba/The Disaster. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is harsh and biased. Two people suffer and fight about the same area in a never-ending conflict. I want the hate crimes to stop in all directions. I want to continue seeing the Jewish synagogue and attempts for peace continue despite hate and suspicion between the people. I want to see co-operation without threats and killings so that we might find the good aspects of tolerance between the religions, a secular and democratic society without totalitarianism.

Anders Moberg, April the 16th 2013



2 thoughts on “Islamophobia, modern Muslims, antisemitism and the secular Sweden

  1. excellent submit, very informative. I ponder why the opposite
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    • Thank you very much. Since I started my blog six months ago I have got readers in 67 countries world wide. I am mostly read in 1) Sweden 2) USA 3) Germany 4) Great Britain 5) Pakistan 6) India 7) Canada 8) Australia 9) Norway 10) Italy 11) Denmark 12) Russia. I believe that most of readers are intellectuals interested in culture and politics, intercultural stuff, journalists, some politicians, human rights-activists and women rights-activists as well as secret services.

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