2018-07-13 12:01:10 UTC
The Relentless Radicalization of Sweden
by Judith Bergman
July 13, 2018 at 5:00 am
Swedish police report that Muslim children have told their classmates they
will cut their throats, while showing them beheadings on their mobile
phones, according to the new study of Salafism in Sweden by the Swedish
"Many women live worse [lives] here than they would have in their former
countries" — Swedish care worker.
The inability -- willful blindness is probably a more apt description -- to
see that jihadist terrorism does not emerge from a vacuum, but is nurtured
in particular environments, is hardly an exclusively Swedish situation. The
insistence of so many European and other Western authorities on describing
terrorist attacks as instances of "mental illness" illustrate it perfectly.
A new study of Salafism in Sweden, conducted by the Swedish Defence
University, paints a bleak picture of the ongoing radicalization of Muslims
The Salaf are the "pious ancestors" during the first three generations of
the followers of Mohammed; its ideology has come to be associated over the
last few decades with al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as with local al-Qaeda
affiliates. According to the study, Salafists, who believe in Islam as
Mohammed's early followers practiced it, tend to reject Western society in
favor of a "pure" Islam: "Not all Salafists are jihadists, but all jihadists
are Salafists". 
Although the study does not give an estimate of how many Salafists are in
Sweden, it does describe how Salafist milieus there have evolved and grown
stronger, especially during the past decade, and lists several examples of
the influence they wield in different Swedish cities and localities.
The Swedish Defence University has published a new study that paints a bleak
picture of the ongoing radicalization of Muslims in Sweden.
"Salafists", the authors of the study conclude, "...advocate gender
segregation, demand that women veil themselves to limit 'sexual temptation',
restrict women's role in the public sphere and strongly oppose listening to
music and some sports activities".
According to the study, many Salafists also tell Muslims not to have Swedish
friends, and refer to them as "kufr", the Arabic term for a non-Muslim or
"disbeliever". One Salafist preacher, Anas Khalifa, said:
"Does that mean that if you meet a Christian or Jew you should beat him or
threaten him? No. There is no war between you and Christians and Jews in
your school, for example. You hate him for Allah's sake. You hate that he
does not believe in Allah. But you want from your heart that he will love
Allah. So you have to work with them, talk with them, because you want Allah
to guide them". 
The Salafists, apparently, have divided Sweden geographically between them.
According to the study:
"It is interesting that the Salafist preachers, on which the study focuses,
appear to be more in cooperation with each other, rather than rivals.
Instead, these preachers seem to divide their da'wa (mission) into different
The study's findings from different cities where Salafists are active
In Borås, some children will not drink the water at the school or paint with
watercolors there, because they say the water is "Christian". The police
report that Muslim children have told their classmates they will cut their
throats, while showing them beheadings on their mobile phones. There are
examples of "adolescents arriving at mosques at the end of a school day to
'wash' themselves after having interacted with [non-Muslim] society". Care
workers [health care, child care, etc.] in the city have testified to how
men exercise control over women, checking on them even in waiting rooms.
One care worker said:
"I realized that there is a network that controls the women so they won't be
left alone with the care workers. They are not given a chance to tell anyone
about their situation. Many women live worse [lives] here than they would
have in their former countries".
This kind of control of women appears to be taking place in practically all
the Swedish cities mentioned in the study.
In Västerås, religious influence is mixed with crime. "It could be a bunch
of guys coming into the grocery store. If the woman at the cashier is not
veiled, they take what they want without paying, they call the cashier
'Swedish whore' and spit on her," said a police officer in the study. Other
examples include Syrians and Kurds who run stores and restaurants in the
area and are questioned by young Muslims about their religion. If the answer
is not Islam, they are harassed. In other cases, boys as young as 10-12
years have approached older women in the area, asking them whether they are
Muslim, telling them "this is our area".
In Gothenburg, according to the study, Salafists told Muslims not to vote
in the most recent elections because it is "haram" (forbidden). "They said
that on the day of judgment you will be responsible for the actions of all
stupid politicians if you vote. They stood at polling stations... At one
polling station they waved an IS [Islamic State] flag", a local official
told the authors of the study. According to one imam in the city, Gothenburg
has been the capital of Wahhabism (a Saudi version of Salafism) in Europe
since the 1990s.
Out of the 300 Swedish Muslims who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, almost one
third came from Gothenburg. (In relation to their total population, more
people have traveled from Sweden to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq
than from most European countries -- only Belgium and Austria have a higher
proportion). Somali-Canadian preacher Said Regeah, speaking at the
Salafist Bellevue Mosque in Gothenburg, has "raised the importance of people
being born 'pure' and that only Muslims are pure. All are born as Muslims,
but it is the parents who shape them to become 'Jews, Christians, or
The study also reports that non-Muslim business owners have experienced
having their facilities vandalized with Islamic State graffiti and that
Christian priests have received threats of decapitation. One man, Samir,
said, "If you do not follow Islam, people ostracize you. There are parents
here who put veils on their three-year-olds. It is unreal. We are not in
Another man, Anwar, was denied service in a Muslim restaurant because he is
not religious. He points out that society is letting secular Muslims down:
"I don't need a Bible or a Koran in my life. The only book I need is... the
[Swedish] law. But if society isn't even on your side, what can you do?"
In the Stockholm area, the study estimates that there are currently up to
150 Salafist jihadists. Salafists are especially concentrated in the
Järva area, a "no go zone". Sometimes the jihadist and the criminal elements
overlap, and these Muslims terrorize other people who live in the area. One
woman said that Salafists and Islamists have come to dominate businesses,
basement mosques, and cultural associations during the past ten years, and
that "Swedes have no idea how much influence political Islam has in the
suburb". She described how even children are gender segregated and that
religious leaders tell women not to tell the authorities if their husband
abuses them. "Swedish laws are not applied in the suburbs".
The study concludes with a critique of Swedish authorities for their
apparent inability to link individual radical Muslims to the "environments
that form their ideas and in certain cases have facilitated the will to join
more radical and violent groups". The study mentions the following as an
"When the then-National Coordinator Against Violent Extremism said that the
question of why so many people chose to travel to IS from Sweden was 'a
million dollar question', it is an illustration of the overall inability of
Swedish authorities (with the exception of police and security police) to
see that this problem has not emerged from a vacuum".
This inability -- or possibly willful blindness -- to see that jihadist
terrorism does not emerge from a vacuum, but is nurtured in particular
environments is hardly an exclusively Swedish situation. The insistence of
so many European and other Western authorities to describe terrorist attacks
as instances of "mental illness" illustrate it perfectly.
The authors of the study also mention that schools and other local
authorities do not know how to deal with the challenges created by the
Salafists. The study mentions, for example, that a Muslim schoolgirl wanted
to take off her headscarf to play hairdresser with the other children, but
the Swedish personnel did not allow it out of respect for her parents'
wishes. In an example from a Swedish preschool, a little girl did not want
to wear her headscarf but the Swedish personnel forced it on her, "even
though it felt wrong", because it was the parents' wish. Swedish school
personnel have also described that they do not know how to act when children
want to eat and drink during Ramadan, but the parents have instructed that
they must fast.
The study is an important first step in Sweden finally acknowledging that
there is a problem, but unless the relevant Swedish authorities -- including
the Swedish government and the political leaders, who refuse to acknowledge
reality in Sweden -- read and internalize it, the study will have been done
Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
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