Not long ago, Norwegian journalists were virtually united in representing Sweden, with its exceedingly liberal immigration policy and its strict limits on public discussion of the subject, as a model of enlightened thinking that deserved to be emulated. Meanwhile Denmark, with its far freer atmosphere of debate (remember the Danish cartoons) and more sensible border controls, was almost universally depicted in Norway as a deplorable hotbed of Islamophobia. That appears to be changing. As Hans Rustad of the alternative Norwegian news website Document.no noted recently, the term "Swedish conditions," which some of us have been using for years to refer to the colossal scale of Sweden's Muslim-related problems, is actually turning up these days in the mainstream Norwegian media -- although the relationship of those conditions to Islam is still routinely underplayed, if not entirely avoided.
Until recently, Denmark, with its far freer atmosphere of debate and more sensible border controls, was almost universally depicted in Norway as a deplorable hotbed of Islamophobia. Pictured: A Danish checkpoint on the border with Germany, near Padborg, on January 6, 2016. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Case in point: on August 10, the daily Aftenposten ran a piece by Tarjei Kramviken about an official Swedish report stating that police, during the past couple of years, have been pursuing an organized campaign to "take back neighborhoods from criminals who have set up parallel societies." But the attempt, the report admitted, has failed. Instead, even more such neighborhoods have sprung up, and the level of violence within them has become more common, more brutal, and more spontaneous. If a police car crosses the invisible border, it is pelted with rocks or bottles.
The neighborhoods in question are, of course, Muslim neighborhoods, and the criminals are Muslims. Although the persons in question are indeed criminals -- they carry guns, sell drugs, commit burglaries, and break out into the occasional riot -- the use of the word criminals seems somewhat euphemistic. We are not talking about some kind of Mafia that has moved into certain neighborhoods, taken them over, and terrorized the locals. The criminals are the locals. They are the young men who live there. Maybe not every last young man, but a high percentage of them. Some of these criminals, moreover, are mere children. One Stockholm cop told Kramviken about "five-year-olds who give the finger to the police and say nasty things."
What we are talking about here, needless to say, is not conventional crime and run-of-the-mill perpetrators but the violent psychopathology associated with a certain religion. We are also talking about the notorious "no-go zones." Until recently, the very notion that some European neighborhoods were "no-go" zones was vehemently dismissed by politicians and commentators on both sides of the Atlantic as a myth, a lie, a vicious right-wing calumny. But even as Swedish officials were denying the existence of such zones in their own country, they were secretly mapping them out and overseeing a police effort to liberate them.
To be sure, they don't call them "no-go zones." Just as the British media refer euphemistically to "Asian neighborhoods," Swedish officials label such heavily Muslim areas as Rinkeby in Stockholm, Rosengård in Malmö, and Biskopsgården in Gothenburg as "vulnerable areas" and "especially vulnerable areas." Aftenposten's Kramviken, while frank about the nature and level of criminal activities in these areas, is careful to skirt the issue of Islam. The word appears nowhere in his article; instead, he focuses on the Muslim neighborhoods' low rates of education and employment and high levels of disability claims and long-term sick leave.
Kramviken's piece came a little over a week after a commentary by Aftenposten's editor-in-chief, Harald Stanghelle, who claimed to have noticed a rapid shift in Sweden's public-debate climate over the last year or so, particularly as regards the topic of immigration. Suddenly, mainstream Swedish politicians are talking positively about "Swedish values" and listening to the concerns of ordinary Swedes; Åsa Linderborg, a leftist editor at Sweden's daily Aftonbladet, has actually apologized for calling Norway's Progress Party "fascist" because of its support for immigration reform. Stanghelle attributed this sea change to the current refugee crisis, the votes for Brexit and Trump, and the growing success at the polls of the officially reviled anti-mass-immigration Sweden Democrats Party.
Well, one thing is true: the Sweden Democrats are on the rise because voters finally grasp the extent and significance of the damage their elites have been doing to their country -- and the elites, both in the media and in government, are scrambling to snap into line in order to keep hold on power. What Stanghelle does not mention is that the same exact shift is taking place, on a smaller scale, in Norway. One example of this shift is Stanghelle's own essay, in which he writes with apparent approval of what he depicts as the Swedish establishment's increasing openness to critics of uncontrolled immigration -- even as he ignores the massive role that the Norwegian media, including Aftenposten, have played in the creating the disaster for which that immigration is responsible.
There is one word that is at the very heart of what Stanghelle is writing about but that (as with Kramviken) appears not once in his piece: namely, Islam. For years, Stanghelle's own rag has systematically whitewashed, and outright celebrated, the "religion of peace." even as it has mendaciously and malignantly demonized its critics. In some ways, the winds in Scandinavia may be turning, but it does not seem as if Stanghelle and his ilk are about to speak the whole truth about Islam, or to apologize for their inexcusable abuse of those who have.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.