In 2014, three Muslims became ministers in the Swedish government. Clearly the most fervent and committed believer was Mehmet Kaplan, 44, who took on the role of Minister for Housing and Urban Development.
Kaplan came to Sweden from Turkey, at the age of one. Despite many claims that he is in fact an Islamist, until now Kaplan has been untouchable. That is, until it emerged that he said that Israel treats the Palestinians the same way the Nazis treated the Jews in Germany. At a hastily summoned press conference on April 18, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced that he had accepted Kaplan's resignation.
Mehmet Kaplan was a minister in Sweden's government until last week, when he was forced to resign after revelations that he compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to that of the German Nazis' treatment of Jews. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Jan Ainali)
Kaplan, a member of the Green Party, has a history of being affiliated with various Muslim organizations connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2005, he denounced the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, for publishing cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed. In an interview with the Christian magazine Dagen, he said, "This is not about freedom of speech, this is about insulting people's faith. I cannot see anything that has to do with freedom of speech here. This is an insupportable provocation."
In 2010, Kaplan was aboard one of the ships of the flotilla sailing to the Gaza Strip, with the aim of breaking Israel's naval blockade. He, along with several others, was arrested after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) boarded the vessel. Once safe and sound back in Sweden, he complained that the IDF "acted like pirates."
In 2011, he invited the well-known Islamist and anti-Semite, Yvonne Ridley, to the Swedish parliament for a seminar. Ridley, a supporter of Hamas, has called Israel "that disgusting little watchdog of America that is festering in the Middle East."
Since becoming a minister in the Swedish government, Mehmet Kaplan has continued to stir up controversy. He has made several hair-raising remarks, such as, in the summer of 2014, when he compared Swedish Muslims who go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State, to Swedish volunteers fighting for Finland in the 1939 Winter War, when Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union three months into the Second World War. Under the slogan "Finland's cause is ours," 8,260 Swedes traveled to Finland to aid their neighbors. To compare this courageous and highly moral effort to that of murderous jihadis, willingly joining the killing machine known as ISIS, rightly upset many Swedes. When the Finnish media criticized the Swedish minister, Kaplan retreated, saying that it "was not a good comparison," and that he was "against young Swedes joining the war in Syria."
In the fall of 2014, it was time for the next controversial statement. Kaplan told the Turkish media that the reason young Muslims join ISIS is "the rampaging Islamophobia in Europe." As a solution to the problem, he suggested that the Swedish government support mosques financially, ostensibly to counteract ISIS's recruitment.
This thought evidently made Social Democrat Party member Nalin Pekgul (a Kurdish Muslim) furious. In an opinion piece for the business paper Dagens Industri, she wrote that the only reason more people did not openly criticize Kaplan was their fear of being labeled "Islamophobes":
"Appointing Mehmet Kaplan government minister is surprising and appalling. ... I am convinced that Mehmet Kaplan said exactly what he meant and that he regards the jihadis as freedom fighters. ... Mehmet Kaplan says that he believes in the equal value of all human beings and equality between the sexes, but very few secular Muslims believe that he is not in fact an Islamist. With Mehmet Kaplan in the government, [Green Party leaders] Gustav Fridolin and Åsa Romson have sent a clear signal to the Muslims of Sweden -- that the Islamists now have the support of the Swedish establishment."
Social anthropologist Aje Carlbom supported Pekgul's conclusion that Kaplan is an Islamist. In an opinion piece for the magazine Dagens Samhälle, Carlbom wrote:
"When it comes to identity politicians in general, this might seem like political mudslinging. One should be aware, however, that Kaplan has his ideological background in the Islamist movement that, for the past 20 years, has been hard at work trying to gain influence in various political arenas."
Last week, another scandal exploded around Kaplan. It all started with the Turkish National Association of Sweden holding a meeting in central Stockholm, where Association Vice President Barbaros Leylani made a speech in which he agitated against Armenians and shouted to the audience: "The Turk awakens! The Armenian dogs should take care. Death to the Armenian dogs!"
Leylani was forced to resign from his organization, but soon pictures surfaced, taken at a Ramadan dinner in July 2015, where Mehmet Kaplan could be seen dining with Barbaros Leylani. To make matters worse, members of the Islamist organization Milli Görüs were visibly present, as were members of the Turkish ultra-nationalist, right-wing extremist organization, the Grey Wolves.
Kaplan said that he had no knowledge of their presence, and that it is his job as a politician to meet with representatives of "Turkish civil society in Sweden." Prime Minister Stefan Löfven called Kaplan's presence at the dinner "deeply regrettable":
"As a government minister, one has a responsibility to act in such a way as never to raise any doubts about what organizations or values one represents. That is why it is deeply regrettable that Mehmet Kaplan ended up in this company, and he realizes now that he needs to be more meticulous."
On Sunday, April 17, the final straw appeared. The daily Svenska Dagbladet published pictures taken by the Somali Star, a local Swedish-Somali TV station. In the segment, which aired in 2009, Mehmet Kaplan compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to that of the German Nazis' treatment of Jews:
"There are certain similarities, which many Jews have actually testified to. The persecution in the 1930s -- the persecution under Nazi Germany -- against the people thought to be the most deviant, people were treated in such a way that they constantly had to explain why they had chosen a certain way of life."
This turned out to be a bit rich, even for Sweden's notoriously Israel-critical Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Come Monday morning, Wallström made a statement: "I think this is an appalling statement, and I strongly denounce this." Wallström did not want to speculate about the consequences at that point, and explained that it was up to Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to decide Kaplan's fate.
And so Löfven did, only hours later. At a televised press conference, Löfven said that Kaplan had handed in his resignation, and that he had accepted it. There can be little doubt, however, that if it had been up to Kaplan, he would have remained at his post.
While Gatestone Institute stands by the articles written for it to date by Ingrid Carlqvist, Gatestone is no longer affiliated with her in any way.