Sweden’s hypocritical and unjustifiable stance on Islamophobia
Sweden has essentially exhibited moral bankruptcy by tolerating such barbaric acts. It has also violated its tripartite agreement with Finland and Turkiye where one of the clauses specifically mentions preventing terrorist organizations and vicious propaganda.
Sweden is often viewed as a state that promotes social welfare and instills racial and religious tolerance as part of governmental policy. Its social fabric is also globally lauded for espousing utopian principles of prosperity and inclusivity for all communities that reside within its borders. Yet the odious, repulsive, heinous, and barbaric act of burning the Holy Quran which is sacred to millions of people across the world has revealed Stockholm’s inherent tolerance for Islamophobia. As protests rocked Sweden and across the Muslim world over extremist Rasmus Paludan burning the Holy Book, Stockholm’s reaction to the turmoil was completely unjustifiable. The Premier, Ulf Kristersson deemed it legal despite being inappropriate. The truth is that Sweden’s reaction is completely unjustifiable and it has brandished its credentials as a country that tolerates Islamophobia.
The barbaric act was committed by far-right extremist Rasmus Paludan, who is the founder of the Stram Kurs or ‘ Straight Course’ party. He has a history of anti-Islam activism and spewing disgusting propaganda that denigrates the second-largest faith in the world. The fact that he was allowed to conduct such savagery with impunity is testament to the nature of the Swedish state which, for all its hype of tolerating immigrants, allows such acts to go unnoticed. A simple statement that does nothing to prosecute Paludan or hold him accountable will not suffice for a country claiming to denounce all forms of hatred on the basis of ethnicity or religion.
This is not the first time either. Paludan has been allowed to openly call for expelling foreign citizens in Sweden to northeastern Greenland in detention camps. His ethno-fascism continues unabated as Swedish authorities grants Paludan permission over its lax, controversial, statutory ‘freedom of speech’ laws. What this essentially means is that citizens in Sweden are free to carry out any act that denigrates another religion, desecrates its edicts, flouts its principles, defames its scriptures, and mocks its beliefs and believers. The message being sent across is that Muslims in Sweden and across the world must tolerate abuse and normalize it as standard discourse. This constitutes state-sponsored hatred.
Sweden has essentially exhibited moral bankruptcy by tolerating such barbaric acts. It has also violated its tripartite agreement with Finland and Turkiye where one of the clauses specifically mentions preventing terrorist organizations and vicious propaganda. An attack on religion is also quintessential white supremacist terrorism. Given that the Swedish authorities remained bystanders during the entire episode, Ankara also canceled Defense Minister Pal Jonson’s upcoming visit to Turkiye which underlines the grave damage that the Swedish state has inflicted on diplomatic relations between states. Turkish President Erdogan further stated that Sweden’s bid for NATO membership is in jeopardy and few could fault him as a country that is inherently tolerant to horrific acts of religious, intolerance should not be allowed in any global military alliance, let alone NATO.
Sweden’s indifference also buttresses earlier observations made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who stated at the end of 2022 that White supremacy and neo-Nazism pose the greatest threats to Western societies. As rising populism and nativist ideologies take hold in countries such as Sweden, controversial demagogues such as Rasmus Paludan who in other states would have been banned for disturbing public order, are reignited, rejuvenated, and emboldened. The toxic link between anti-immigrant rhetoric, policies which seek to demonize Muslims and other ethnicities with the rise of far-right extremism is apparent in Sweden’s case.
One can also draw parallels for what happened in India in June 2022. The right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party with its Hindu supremacist agenda eventually witnessed one of its firebrand members, Nupur Sharma spewing unacceptable comments that denigrated the sanctity of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Her comments were met with a massive uproar with economic boycotts witnessed in some countries. Yet in India’s case the BJP expelled Sharma as a party member. There is no such precedent in Sweden where Paludan was or will be banned.
Religious institutions such as Al Azhar Al Sharif have been quick to urge world leaders to stand up against all acts which violate religious sanctity. The truth is that failure to call out Sweden internationally for its apathy will only sanction such countries to employ plausible deniability while witnessing Holy books being burnt in broad daylight. As aptly stated by the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber Al Sabah, such acts will incite Muslims all across the world which constitutes a dangerous provocation. The Muslim world’s unanimity in its denunciation of such vile acts is evidence of how Sweden and Paludan’s tacit supporters have violated of public sentiment. This continues to portray Sweden in a negative light, especially in the Muslim world as a provocative state that has little disregard for protecting human rights.
The problem also lies in Europe’s entire orientation towards Islam which is based on fallacies, myths and conspiracy theories. This includes the theory of ‘Eurabia’ where the European population is slated to be replaced by Arabs. The stereotypical depiction of Arabs being savages, illiterate and engineering Renaud Camus’ discredited ‘Great Replacement’ theory is fomenting and emboldening far right demagogues such as Paludan to carry out crimes against humanity with impunity. The so-called freedom of speech narrative that is being touted as a necessity by Sweden is translating into an open field for hatred to take hold.
The government of Sweden can hence, be considered equally complicit in the Holy Quran burning incident as authorities were impersonal to yet another wicked display of Islamophobia.