The situation in Sweden continues to deteriorate. Last month, a 15-year-old was shot to death and another teenager seriously wounded in a pizzeria in Malmö. (Image source: iStock)
Back in February and March 2017 BBC News ran a number of articles about Trump's much vilified remarks about Sweden, including one with the headline, "Trump's wrong, it's 'quiet and safe' in Malmo." One article in particular, "All eyes on Malmo but not because of Trump" painted an idyllic picture of the lives of expats in Malmö. It spoke, among others, about a young American woman working in Malmö, Susanna Lewis, in the following way:
"As a woman, she is also used to being prepared and watchful as she walks alone in other places, yet she does not feel afraid in Malmö city centre or its outer suburbs".
The article went on to quote her: "I never have had that fear in Sweden. This is the safest place I've ever lived."
Now, however, even the BBC appears to have discovered that Sweden suffers from serious problems. In November, the BBC published an article headlined, "Sweden's 100 explosions this year: What's going on?"
"Swedish police are dealing with unprecedented levels of attacks, targeting city centre locations too. The bomb squad was called to deal with 97 explosions in the first nine months of this year," the BBC wrote. It even quoted Linda H. Straaf, head of intelligence at Sweden's National Operations Department, about the identity of the men behind the explosions and gang violence:
"They have grown up in Sweden and they are from socio-economically weak groups, socio-economically weak areas, and many are perhaps second- or third-generation immigrants".
It is significant that one of the world's largest mainstream media organizations finally engages with Swedish reality, and attempts accurately to describe it.
Swedish reality, unfortunately, continues to deteriorate. Last month, a 15-year-old was shot to death and another teenager seriously wounded in a pizzeria in Malmö. That incident appears to have been a turning point. "We have seen a weekend in Malmö that is unacceptable, with an execution-like murder," said Mats Löfving, head of the Swedish police's National Operations Department. He announced that police would be launching a six-month nation-wide operation against the wave of gang-related violence and explosions. The operation would mainly work towards four goals.
"What we want to achieve is that shootings and explosions in the gang environments will be significantly reduced. Secondly that the number of people involved in criminal networks should be reduced by the use of coercive measures", said Stefan Hector, who will be leading the operation.
The last two objectives are to increase the number of seizures of weapons and explosive components, and to make the public feel more secure.
The last objective, making the public feel more secure, will prove to be a formidable task. Last month, a teenager was forced into a garage by a gang of ten people, robbed of everything but his underwear and had part of his ear cut off. The incident took place in a usually peaceful area in the city of Gothenburg. Also in Gothenburg last month, a man who missed the tram at a station threw stones at the tram driver, injuring him and smashing several windows, according to police. In addition, a young woman, waiting at a bus stop in Malmö, suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit repeatedly over the head with a plank by a 21-year old man, Ibrahim Ramadan.
While random Swedes are experiencing an unprecedented wave of brutal violence, a recent report, "Hate Crimes 2018" by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRÅ) showed that antisemitic crimes in the country increased by 53% from 2016 to 2018. There were 278 hate crimes against Jews in 2018. There are approximately 20,000 Jews in Sweden. By comparison, BRÅ registered 562 hate crimes against Muslims, an increase of 28% from 2016. There were roughly 800,000 Muslims in Sweden in 2016, according to a 2017 Pew report.
Although BRÅ's report does not mention who the perpetrators of the antisemitic crimes were, there are significant clues in a report, "Antisemitism - Overview of data available in the European Union 2007–2017," published in November 2018 by the EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights. The report quoted the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) stating that, in 2017:
"The main perpetrators of antisemitic incidents are 'Islamists' and radicalised young Muslims, including schoolchildren, as well as neo-Nazis and sympathisers of extreme-right and, in some cases, extreme-left groups".
Neo-Nazis are suspected of having orchestrated what appears to be coordinated acts against Jewish institutions and private homes on the anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9 in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. In Sweden, stickers in the form of yellow Stars of David with the words "Jude" were put on the facades of synagogues in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Norrköping and Helsingborg. In Denmark, similar acts took place, but on the homes of some Jews. The headstones in an old Jewish cemetery in the Danish city of Randers were also vandalized with green paint. A leading Danish member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, also known as Nordfront (Northern Front), and a 27-year old accomplice were arrested for vandalizing the graveyard. As of this writing, no other arrests have been made.
One problem is that the Swedish state itself contributes indirectly to the spread of extremism. The Swedish Security Service (Säpo) has found that a "relatively large" number of organizations with links to violent extremism have been using Sweden's state and municipal grant systems, which Säpo says could "contribute to radicalization and thus growth in extremist environments in Sweden."
The report found that both left-wing, right-wing, and Islamist extremist groups had taken advantage of state aid. However, according to Johan Olsson, the Operational Manager at Säpo, "Right now we see that the problem is greatest in the violent Islamist environment." According to Säpo, individuals from Islamist groups are using public-funded schools, cultural associations and foundations as platforms to spread extremist ideology within Sweden.
The consequences of these developments are that: In a recent poll, the Sweden Democrats are now the largest party in Sweden with 24% of the vote -- a record number. The Sweden Democrats say, among other things, that they want "to stop receiving asylum seekers in Sweden", as well as "sharpen the requirements to become Swedish citizens". The Sweden Democrats also want to introduce, among other things, "wide-ranging penalties and, in particular, raise the minimum penalty for repeated and serious crimes". They also want to introduce "compulsory expulsion of grossly criminal foreigners and the possibility to recall citizenship in case of terrorist offenses". The ruling Social Democrats, who are not doing anything about the problems and are letting Sweden disintegrate, are at a historical low with a mere 22.2% of the vote. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has previously called the Sweden Democrats "an extremist and racist party".
It is possible that these consequences were one of the reasons why Ulf Kristersson, leader of one of the main opposition parties, the Moderate Party, on November 17, in an unusual move, apologized on Facebook to those Swedes who criticized Swedish immigration policies over the years:
"Of course, the segregation, exclusion and long-standing uncontrolled immigration that is now driving serious crime did not suddenly arise. Responsibility for years of ill-conceived policies -- and the inability to address the problems -- is shared by many. Also, by my party, the Moderates...
"First and foremost: It is completely wrong that this development could not have been predicted. Many warned of it already in the 1990 's... and many other voices took off in the 2000's.
"Since then, the voices have become many... the problems of large-scale immigration and poor integration – and the long-term risks of deep exclusion, strong social tensions and serious crime – have been raised by many and with constructive intentions. So, the development has been predicted to a very high degree. But too many people in politics disregarded this for too long...
"Secondly, the Moderate Party frankly acknowledges that we share the responsibility. We too should have acted at an earlier stage, clearer and in a more powerful way. And to the extent that my party has helped to revile and freeze out the voices that wanted and dared to raise the problems, they deserve my and my party's unreserved apology.
"Looking back and learning from mistakes... is therefore necessary. But not enough. We must also take responsibility through clear political rethinking and concrete action.
"For what [Prime Minister] Stefan Löfven cannot see at all, almost everyone sees: it is quite clear that gang criminality, shootings and executions are strongly linked to excessive immigration and to bad integration. How can you even pretend anything else?"
These are forceful words coming from the leader of a party whose predecessor, Frederik Reinfeldt -- prime minister of Sweden from 2006 to 2014 and chairman of the Moderate Party from 2003 to 2015 -- urged Swedes in 2014 to "Open your hearts" to the refugees of the world.
The question now is how the Moderate Party will transform Kristersson's apology into "concrete political action" that can stop Swedish reality from deteriorating even further.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.