In Sweden, there are a number of Muslim organizations that together constitute what is known as "Muslim civil society" (Muslimska civilsamhället). What is important, when discussing Muslim civil society in Sweden, is their political influence, their ideology and their structure.
One of the most important organizations in Sweden's Muslim civil society is the Islamic Association of Sweden (Islamiska Förbundet i Sverige -- IFIS), established in 1981. Some of the goals of IFIS, which you can read about on their website, are to "influence and form opinions on issues that concern the Muslim group and its interests in Sweden" and "increase participation, influence and representation of Muslims in public institutions and bodies". In other words, IFIS works as a lobby organization for Muslims in Sweden.
It is a lobby organization that has been successful.
Former IFIS chairman Abdirizak Waberi represented the second largest party, the Moderate Party, in parliament between 2010 and 2014, when this party was in government. When Waberi sat in parliament, he was a member of the defense committee, which decides the policies for the Swedish Armed Forces.
Waberi's time in parliament was a remarkable experience for many Swedes. In several interviews before 2010, Waberi said he believed in a literal interpretation of the Koran. In an interview from 2006, he supported the idea that men could have four wives. In another interview from 2009, he said that he does not shake the hand of a woman; that men and women should not dance with each other, and that he would rather live in a country with Islamic sharia law. After these interviews, clearly revealing that Waberi is an Islamist, and that he got to represent Sweden's second-largest party in parliament, apparently without Swedish media or anyone else providing scrutiny over his past statements.
Omar Mustafa, who took over as chairman of IFIS in 2011, after Waberi, was elected to the leadership of the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) in April 2013. Mustafa's election into the leadership of Sweden's largest party triggered a reaction in which the media actually started to write about IFIS operations. The media reported that shortly before Mustafa was elected to the SAP leadership, IFIS had organized a conference in Stockholm, where it had invited speakers with anti-Semitic views. When the media began to examine IFIS's operations more closely, Omar Mustafa was forced to resign from the Social Democratic leadership.
Despite the scandal around Omar Mustafa, IFIS continues to have a close relationship with both the largest party, the Social Democrats and the second largest party, the Moderate Party.
Mehmet Kaplan and "Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice"
Mehmet Kaplan is an example of how a person with origins in Muslim civil society can climb up into the Swedish government. Kaplan was secretary of the Swedish Young Muslims (Sveriges Unga Muslimer -- SUM) between the years of 1996-2000. Then he became the chairman of this organization, until 2002. Between 2005 and 2006, Kaplan was the press secretary for the Muslim Council of Sweden (Sveriges Muslimska Råd). In 2008, Kaplan founded the organization Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice (Svenska Muslimer för Fred och Rättvisa -- SMFR).
Kaplan was a member of the Green Party's leadership between 2003 and 2011. He represented the Green Party in parliament between 2006 and 2014. Between 2014 and 2016, Kaplan was Sweden's Minister of Housing.
After "alternative" media outlets in Sweden started writing about Kaplan's dealings with various kinds of extremists, the Swedish mainstream media started to examine Kaplan. In 2014, Kaplan had already been criticized for having compared the Swedish jihadists who travel to Syria to join groups such as ISIS, with the Swedes who had gone to Finland during WWII to defend Finland from the Soviet military aggression.
When the media began to examine Kaplan, it emerged that in the summer of 2015, he had participated at a dinner where the leader of the fascist Turkish organization, the Grey Wolves, was in attendance. The media also found that Kaplan for several years had held meeting with the Islamist organization, Milli Görüs. It then emerged that Kaplan in 2009 compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians with the Nazis' treatment of Jews.
Mehmet Kaplan was a minister in Sweden's government until April 2016, 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 also sat for several years on the board of an organization called Charta 2008, which defends dangerous jihadists and criticizes the war against terrorism.
When Mehmet Kaplan founded Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice (SMFR) in 2008, its "vision statement" stated:
"If you want to participate and influence the development of society, it is inevitable to become politically involved. Everything that is connected to power is ultimately linked to politics. Without power, it is not possible to create change. As an individual, organization and society, active players constantly seek power to get through various forms of changes, push through solutions to various societal problems, as well as the ability to express themselves about, as well as define, various societal challenges. One of SMFR's goal is to gain power to change the world for the better."
This "better" world is an Islamic world. In the same "vision statement", SMFR writes:
"Islam should be the starting point for SMFR's operations. It is on the basis of Islam where the main inspiration, commitment, drive, motivation, guidance and values will come from."
SMFR embodies its goal by writing in its program that Islam should be a natural part of Europe's cultural heritage. SMFR wants to work for a Swedish Muslim culture. In other words, SMFR works for the Islamization of Europe and Sweden.
SMFR is actively trying to realize their vision. The organization's spokesperson and secretary-general, Yasri Khan, was nominated for the Green Party leadership and would certainly have been elected into the leadership, before a journalist in April 2016 revealed that Yasri Khan did not shake hands with women.
Members of the Green Party, which sits in the government of Sweden, apparently knew Yasri Khan refused to shake hands with women, and yet they were helping to elect him into the party leadership. The Green Party spokesman and Sweden's Minister for Education, Gustav Fridolin, told the media:
"I knew about it. I had not realized how offensive some women think that it can be."
Fridolin's former press secretary is a woman named Anwahr Athahb. Only two years before Athahb became Fridolin's press secretary, she had been elected to the vice-chairmanship of SMFR. Before that, she was the secretary of the organization. In 2014, Athahb was one of the Green Party's leading candidates for the European Parliament. Her campaign-slogan was "The EU needs more Muslim women in Parliament".
Today, Athahb works at an Arabic talk show on Sveriges Radio, Sweden's national public taxpayer-funded radio broadcaster.
Muslim civil society's political influence is great, reaches all the way up to the government, and that it exists in almost all major parties in Sweden.
Because there are so many examples of Muslim civil society's political influence, it is not possible to include all examples in this article. But a final example may clarify how strong this influence is. Already in 1999, the Muslim Council of Sweden (SMR) signed an agreement with Sweden's Social Democrat party that:
"In the coming term, Muslims' participation in social democracy will evolve so that: in 2002 there should be among social democratic elected representatives Muslims in 15 municipal lists, 5 county lists and on the parliamentary lists in at least five counties."
There are few lobbying organizations that can get the largest party in Sweden to sign an agreement with such clear and concrete promises.
The Islamic Association of Sweden (IFIS) writes on their website that they are members of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE). There are strong links between FIOE and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Besides IFIS's links to the Muslim Brotherhood through FIOE, IFIS often shows sympathy and support for the Muslim Brotherhood. In August 2013, IFIS held demonstrations in Stockholm in support of Egypt's former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who had been deposed. The entire Muslim civil society in Sweden criticized the military coup against Morsi. Yet, the same Muslim civil society never criticizes the Islamist regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia. When the United Arab Emirates decided to list the Muslim Brotherhood and all branches of the movement as terrorists, they also listed IFIS as terrorists, because the authorities in the UAE assessed that this organization in Sweden was part of the international network of the Muslim Brotherhood.
When a debate started in 2014 on making it illegal for Swedish citizens to travel to other countries to participate in jihad, the Muslim Human Rights Committee (Muslimska Mänskliga Rättighetskommittén), one of the organizations within Swedish Muslim civil society, claimed that such a law would be racist. Furthermore, they argued that people who fought in jihad abroad were not even a threat against Sweden.
So when it comes to ideology, it seems clear that Muslim civil society in Sweden has an ideological direction that is close to the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology, while they criticize the laws and measures that prevent Islamic terrorism.
To understand the structure of Muslim civil society in Sweden, we need to look at Kapellgränd 10, in Stockholm, the official address for at least 15 different Muslim organizations, including the Stockholm Mosque. Muslim organizations such as IFIS, the European Muslim Rights Council, the Forum for Young Muslims, Sweden's Imam Council, the Ibn Rushd Educational Association and the Swedish Muslim Scouts, use this same address for their organizations. The bulk of Muslim civil society in Sweden is controlled from Kapellgränd 10. Thus, the structure of Muslim civil society appears quite centralized.
The centralization of Muslim civil society can also be seen in that a few people sit in the leading positions of different Muslim organizations. If, for example, you take the organization, Ibn Rushd, which is an Islamic educational association in Sweden, its chairman is Helena Hummasten, who was chairman of the Muslim Council of Sweden until 2014. The principal of Ibn Rushd is Omar Mustafa, who was chairman of IFIS until 2016. The development manager of Ibn Rushd is Mustafa Tumturk, who is also a board member of the Muslim Council of Sweden. Mohammed Fateh Atia, who is responsible for digital development in Ibn Rushd, has also been vice-chairman of the Swedish Young Muslims (SUM). These are just a few examples of how a handful of people have strategic roles in several organizations in Sweden's Muslim civil society.
Conclusions that can be drawn about Muslim civil society in Sweden include:
- Muslim civil society has significant influence in almost all major Swedish political parties.
- Muslim civil society's influence is strong enough that one of their representatives was a government minister.
- Muslim civil society in Sweden is an Islamist movement with organizational and ideological links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
- Muslim civil society consists, on paper, of several organizations but in practice, it operates as a single organization in which a few people have the leading roles.
We have been talking mostly about Islamism as something foreign, not among us in the Western world. But the influence of Islamists, or extremist Muslims, in a Western country such as Sweden is large; there have been Islamists in the Swedish government and parliament, without the media or establishment even reacting.
The greatest threat from Islamism comes not from the suicide bombers who carry out spectacular attacks, but from Islamists quietly infiltrating our democratic institutions and normalizing their ideas among us. It is a threat that must be recognized and addressed.
Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a member of the board of education in the Swedish city of Malmö and is engaged in several Swedish think tanks concerned with the Middle East. He is also editor for the social conservative website Situation Malmö. Gholam Ali Pour is the author of the Swedish book "Därför är mångkultur förtryck"("Why multiculturalism is oppression").