For the first time in Sweden, crime tops the list of voters' most important concerns in the run-up to the elections. Of the more than 8,200 people the Swedish police counted as being members of criminal gangs by late 2021, almost 15 percent were under the age of 18. Pictured: Police commandos enter the Latin School in Malmö, Sweden on March 21, 2022, following an attack in which two teachers at the school were stabbed to death by a student. (Photo by Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images)
Sweden will hold general elections on September 11, 2022. At the same time, the country is rocked by a wave of violent crime that is unprecedented in modern Scandinavian history.
For the first time, crime tops the list of voters' most important concerns in the run-up to the elections. "It's going to be a very unique type of Swedish election with a very unusual issue at the top of the agenda," Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson, professor of political science at Gothenburg University, told newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Forty-one percent of those surveyed said that law and order are the most important issues in society, as well as the most important political issues.
Patrik Öhberg, political scientist at the SOM Institute, states that "This is the first election campaign in modern times where it's so high up on the agenda that all parties, whether they want to or not, have to discuss the issue." This could benefit the Moderate Party, the Christian Democrats, or the Sweden Democrats. On the other side of the political spectrum, it could be detrimental to the Left Party, the Greens, and the ruling Social Democrats.
The Social Democratic Party has headed the Swedish government since 2014. During these eight years, crime has continued growing to intolerable levels nationwide. Sweden has in recent years suffered attacks involving bombs, hand grenades or other explosive devices on a weekly basis, sometimes several times a week.
In November 2021, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven stepped down as party leader and PM, and Magdalena Andersson became Sweden's first female prime minister. In April 2022, several Swedish cities experienced violent riots and attacks against the police by Muslims when anti-Islamic activist Rasmus Paludan tried to burn copies of the Koran. Andersson then admitted that a lack of integration had contributed to gang violence, saying that there are "strong forces that are ready to go to great lengths to harm our society."
"Segregation has been allowed to go so far that Sweden now has parallel societies," Andersson said according to Aftonbladet. "We live in the same country but in completely different realities... Integration has been too poor while we have had large-scale migration. Society has also been too weak."
Others, after having allowed these problems to grow largely unchecked for decades, have belatedly come to the same conclusion. Ulf Kristersson, leader of the liberal-conservative Moderate Party, in August 2022 co-authored a column which admitted that "Sweden has lost control over crime. While the violence is getting worse, the perpetrators are getting younger."
Unfortunately, every single party represented in the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) has contributed to the current problems, with the right-wing Sweden Democrats being a partial exception.
Even mainstream media outlets such as the BBC admit that Sweden has one of the highest rates of gun killings in Europe. An official Swedish government report published in 2021 stated that each year, four in every million inhabitants in Sweden die in shootings. The European average is 1.6 people per million inhabitants. Statistics reveal that 85% of suspects involved in fatal shootings in Sweden are either born abroad or come from an immigrant background. Recently, bombings and shootings have spread outside the main cities. After a spate of shootings in the smaller city of Örebro, the local police chief said that they now not only had more gangs, but that they had also become more violent. "Where maybe 10 years ago they gave someone a beating, they then switched to shooting each other in the legs," Mattias Forssten told Reuters. "Now they shoot each other in the head."
On August 19, a man was killed and a woman was sent to the hospital with serious wounds after a shooting incident in Malmö, Sweden's third-largest city. The attack took place inside Emporia, a major shopping mall. According to the police, the murdered man had known ties to a criminal gang. The wounded woman, however, appears to have been an innocent bystander. The perpetrator fired many shots on a busy afternoon inside one of the country's largest shopping malls. He could easily have wounded or killed many other people, even unintentionally.
A 15-year-old boy was arrested and admitted to the murder in Malmö. Unfortunately, he is far from unique. Of the more than 8,200 people the Swedish police counted as being members of criminal gangs by late 2021, almost 15% were under the age of 18. Some gangs recruit teenagers specifically. Under the Swedish legal system, they can expect more lenient sentences due to their young age and may even be able to avoid spending any time in jail. Prisons in Sweden are already overcrowded.
Sweden has in just two generations gone from being one of the safest countries in the world to being one of the most dangerous countries in Europe. During the same time, mass immigration has dramatically altered Sweden's population. 1.2 million of those eligible to vote in the elections in September 2022 were born outside Sweden -- about 200,000 more foreigners than in the previous election, in 2018. Nearly one in four first-time voters aged 18-21 was either born abroad or has two parents born abroad. In central Malmö, almost every second person eligible to vote for the first time has a foreign background.
Muslim immigrants in Sweden, as in other European countries, tend overwhelmingly to vote for the Social Democrats or other socialist or left-wing parties. However, they have now become so numerous and self-confident that they also create their own political parties. Mikail Yüksel, a Turkish-born Muslim, heads Partiet Nyans, which has a following in cities such as Malmö. Yüksel has argued that an artwork by the late Swedish artist Lars Vilks should be burned because it allegedly represents Islamophobia.
Basem Mahmoud is an imam operating in the heavily Muslim-dominated area of Rosengård in Malmö. He has called Jews "the offspring of pigs and apes," said he was "only quoting the Koran," and is looking forward to "the great battle" when all non-Muslims will be forced to submit themselves to Muslims. He has also defended the brutal murder of the French teacher Samuel Paty in 2020, who was beheaded by a Chechen Muslim after teaching students a class on freedom of expression.
In a sermon in February 2022, Mahmoud went on the attack against Swedish schools and social services and stated that Muslims are taking over the country. "Sweden is ours," he said. " It is ours, whether they [Swedes] like it or not. In ten to fifteen years, it is ours."
Sweden has both imported and exported Jihadists for years. Some Muslims after 2014 traveled from Europe to the Middle East to support the self-proclaimed Islamic State, arguably the world's most brutal terrorist organization. While many of them died there, some of the survivors in recent years returned to Europe. They have directly or indirectly supported brutal terrorist attacks, massacres, beheadings, and slave auctions. Nevertheless, many of them have not faced any real punishment after returning to Sweden. Some local municipalities even offered them free driving licenses and housing grants in an attempt to reintegrate these hardened Jihadists into Swedish society.
In early 2022, a man was charged with threatening the police after he hung what looked like an Islamic State flag from his balcony in the Broby, a town of about 3,000 people in southern Sweden. He told the police that he would behead them, but later claimed that they had a personal vendetta against him.
Norberg, an old mining community in central Sweden, has roughly 4,500 inhabitants. In April 2022, a man in his 40s who is believed to be from Afghanistan was arrested there for raping and attempting to murder a woman by pushing her down an old mine shaft. The man had come to Sweden with the migrant wave in 2015 and been denied a residence permit, but had nevertheless remained in the country. He had apparently asked a Swedish woman to marry him. When she refused, he raped her and then pushed her about 20 meters down a mine shaft. When he returned later and discovered that the woman was still alive, he started throwing rocks at her to kill her. By some miracle, the woman survived and, after lying in the abandoned mine for two days, was rescued. The assailant may also have killed his former wife.
In July 2022, a 9-year-old Swedish girl was the victim of a brutal attempted murder at a playground in the town of Skellefteå, in northern Sweden. She was raped and then beaten into a coma. The suspect was an immigrant from Ethiopia. He initially claimed to be 13 years old, but he is probably several years older. He had been granted permanent residency in Sweden merely a week before this attempted murder, despite being described in the local community as a "walking hand grenade."
Sweden has one of the world's worst recorded rape rates. In 2018, the state broadcaster SVT revealed that 58% of men convicted in Sweden of rape and attempted rape over the previous five years were born abroad. Some of the most brutal rape cases have involved Muslim or African immigrants.
Black Axe is an international and extremely violent criminal organization with roots in Nigeria. They are one of the many rival criminal gangs in the process of establishing themselves in Sweden. An official police report from 2019 indicated that Stockholm alone has at least 50 different criminal gangs currently operating in the city. They are also getting more aggressive and violent. Scandinavian countries traditionally did not have strong organized crime groups comparable to the mafia found in southern Italy. Now Sweden has dozens of different groups or clans competing against one another for control over the local market of narcotics, protection money or other illegal activities. Some of them have even managed to create a criminal infrastructure, with ties to lawyers or bureaucrats. Nearly all of them have been imported to the country since the 1970s. Many of these criminals have an ethnic background from far more brutal and cynical societies in the Islamic world or Africa. Soft Scandinavian prisons do not deter them.
Unfortunately, such problems are no longer confined only to major cities. They are spreading to smaller towns and even rural areas across Sweden. Kalmar, a relatively small medieval town of historical importance, has experienced multiple deadly gang shootings.
Swedes who want their families to be safe from violent crime are running out of places to move to -- unless they decide to leave their homeland behind entirely, as some are doing already.
Peder Jensen is a Norwegian author and essayist.