Tensions with Sweden’s Refugee Communities

Matthew Fisher: Tensions with Sweden’s refugee communities challenge the country’s liberal image of itself

Rosengard, where more than 80 per cent of the population was not born in Sweden, has become widely regarded a flashpoint for communal strife


Matthew Fisher

August 18, 2017
3:07 PM EDT

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MALMO, Sweden — One afternoon, as I asked two young women for directions to the Arab bazaar in the district of Rosengard, near this city’s centre, a man appeared seemingly from nowhere and, shouting at the women in Iraqi-accented Arabic, said something to them that caused them literally to run away.

Rounding on me, the man, probably in his late twenties with a well-groomed beard, demanded by what right had I spoken to his sister and her friend. I answered that I had only been seeking directions.

His sister had been raised in Sweden, he said, and therefore did not understand that European men were pedophiles and that it was perilous for her to speak with them for any reason. Approaching me again later in the crowded bazaar, where almost all the signs were in Arab script and some of the women were totally covered by hijabs, he declined to give his name but said that he was a dentistry student. Before stomping off, he said he was furious with the West for having murdered Muslim women and children in the Middle East, and vowed that Islam’s green flag would fly one day over Sweden.

It would be unfair to describe this exchange as typical. Many Arabs that I have met during several visits to Rosengard over the past few years have been gracious and helpful. But ethnic tensions have definitely been rising in Sweden, a country of just 10 million people which in 2015 accepted 163,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 80 per cent of the people living in the Malmo suburb of Rosengard speak Arabic

Rosengard, where more than 80 per cent of the population was not born in Sweden, has become widely regarded a flashpoint for communal strife. I was told again and again by Swedes and Arabs in Sweden’s third-largest city that the slightly scruffy neighbourhood (few communities in Scandinavia are truly scruffy) had already become a virtual No-Go Zone for fire trucks and ambulances unless protected by a robust police escort and that when crimes were committed the community was tight lipped with police about what had happened.

In an open letter to the public earlier this year, Malmo’s police chief, Stefan Sinteus, pleaded for help solving the murder of a 16-year-old Iraqi boy, Ahmed Obaid, who had been shot in the head in Rosengard, as well as with more than 100 other serious crimes including murders, attempted murders, rape and assault. This followed a Christmas Eve bombing in 2014 and a wave of violence during the summer of 2015.

“I can assure you that the police in Malmo are doing everything we can for suspected perpetrators to be held accountable,” Sinteus said. “But we cannot do it on our own.”

Finding an ethnic Swede who lives in Rosengard was not easy. One of the very few was 28-year-old Josefine Angusson, was shopping in small mall near the bazaar with her three-year-old son.

Her voice full of despair, Angusson said she had lived all her life in Rosengard but was planning to move “far away” next week.

“There is a lot of violence and drugs and shooting here,” she said. “It’s gangs, and not many of them are Swedish. My son has nobody to play with because he doesn’t speak Arabic. None of our neighbours talk to me.

“I am not a racist at all but it’s like that. We are looking for another option where we can live because all of Malmo will be become like this. Swedes are not happy about it. Would Canadians be?”

Despite Sweden’s famously liberal social traditions there was a perception that refugees were overtaxing the country’s generous welfare system, hospitals and schools and that finding places for the newcomers to live and to work was becoming problematic. Nobody seemed to know for sure, but there are published reports in Sweden that the unemployment rate in Rosengard exceeds 60 per cent.

“We hate it because of the murders, and they all seem to be Arabs getting killed,” said Eddie Hagmann, whose work as a security guard takes him through Rosengard three times every night to check on some properties there

“When we go on foot patrols there have to always be three of us. I am 21. I don’t want to die for this job.”

A fear that is much discussed in the media is that Rosengard and Arab-majority neighborhoods elsewhere in Sweden have become home to large numbers of Islamic extremists.

Sweden’s top spy, Anders Thornberg, believes that where there were fewer than 200 Islamic extremists in the country 10 years ago that number has today exploded into the thousands.

“We have never seen anything like this before,” Thornberg told Sweden’s TT news agency. “This is the new normal,”

Until recently, welcoming refugees was a central part of how most Swedes regarded themselves. But several polls taken this year have found that more than half the population wanted the government to curb the number of refugees it accepts. This dovetailed with a survey by the state statistics agency that indicated about one Swede in five supports the strongly anti-immigration Swedish Democrats, who are now second only to the ruling Social Democrats in popularity and the third party in parliament.

Pondering the changing mood, a young man who would only give his name as Mahmoud, and who had arrived in Malmo from the former Yugoslavia as a refugee with his parents as a young child said, “Swedes don’t have a problem with Muslims. They have a problem with Arabs. The cultures are just so different. And those differences are worse in Malmo than anywhere else.”

Palestinian-Iraqi Abdulhamid Abuqweili said a lot had changed since he arrived in the city as a refugee 14 years ago.

“Sweden is a very good country but it cannot take in so many refugees. The cost to the people who are already here is too great,” Abuqweili said during a drive around Rosengard, which is mostly drab apartment towers occasionally brightened by a wall mural depicting Arab life.

It is a wonderful thing to help people but it must be done in the right way

“The radicals who have come are bad for the other Arabs. The Swedes think that when Arabs are together there will be problems. Those who come now don’t want to learn the language. They want to live as they did back home.”

With Sweden’s traditional centre-left leaders feeling intense pressure from the surging right, the government has become much more vigilant about who gets into their country. For example, I spent an hour on a packed, overheated train at the first stop in Sweden after the road and rail bridge from Copenhagen while teams of police went through every car carefully examining travelers’ documents.

Carina Costa-Correa, who had emigrated to Spain but was back visiting her family in Malmo, said that was happening in her homeland today was “a well-intentioned disaster. There was no plan for how to deal with so many refugees at once who arrived with little or no education or skills. Clearly it would be much better to help them where they were rather than here. But the government was blind to that.”

As he waited for his train at the Malmo station, 56-year-old tire salesman Roger Knast said over a beer that, “Swedes think the country is overcrowded with Muslims. But it is still generally considered a bad thing to say it, so it is said quietly.

“This is a crisis for Sweden. The government asked us to open our hearts to refugees but they don’t see the consequences. There are so many of them that they no longer mix in and we have created a whole industry of people who take care of them. It is a wonderful thing to help people but it must be done in the right way. It is time for us to close our borders and take care of those who are already here.”

Twitter: @mfisheroverseas

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Oliver Stone on Putin

Oliver Stone: Putin is the most experienced statesman on the planet.

Statesman: “Usually a politician, diplomat or other notable public figure who has had a long and respected career at the national or international level.”

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Putin

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Looking for Beta readers

I’m looking for beta readers.

Short story, 8,000 words. Contact if interested.

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Déjà vu Again – 2003

Subject: NYTimes.com Article: Stating the Obvious

Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 12:44:07 -0400 (EDT)

By PAUL KRUGMAN

“The lunatics are now in charge of the asylum.” So wrote the normally staid Financial Times, traditionally the voice of solid British business opinion, when surveying last week’s tax bill. Indeed, the legislation is doubly absurd: the gimmicks used to make an $800-billion-plus tax cut carry an official price tag of only $320 billion are a joke, yet the cost without the gimmicks is so large that the nation can’t possibly afford it while keeping its other promises.

But then maybe that’s the point. The Financial Times suggests that “more extreme Republicans” actually want a fiscal train wreck: “Proposing to slash federal spending, particularly on social programs, is a tricky electoral proposition, but a fiscal crisis offers the tantalizing prospect of forcing such cuts through the back door.”

It’s no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration’s policies might actually be driven by those ideologues – that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut – was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.

Yet by pushing through another huge tax cut in the face of record deficits, the administration clearly demonstrates either that it is completely feckless, or that it actually wants a fiscal crisis. (Or maybe both.)

Here’s one way to look at the situation: Although you wouldn’t know it from the rhetoric, federal taxes are already historically low as a share of G.D.P. Once the new round of cuts takes effect, federal taxes will be lower than their average during the Eisenhower administration. How, then, can the government pay for Medicare and Medicaid – which didn’t exist in the 1950’s – and Social Security, which will become far more expensive as the population ages? (Defense spending has fallen compared with the economy, but not that much, and it’s on the rise again.)

The answer is that it can’t. The government can borrow to make up the difference as long as investors remain in denial, unable to believe that the world’s only superpower is turning into a banana republic. But at some point bond markets will balk – they won’t lend money to a government, even that of the United States, if that government’s debt is growing faster than its revenues and there is no plausible story about how the budget will eventually come under control.

At that point, either taxes will go up again, or programs that have become fundamental to the American way of life will be gutted. We can be sure that the right will do whatever it takes to preserve the Bush tax cuts – right now the administration is even skimping on homeland security to save a few dollars here and there. But balancing the books without tax increases will require deep cuts where the money is: that is, in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

The pain of these benefit cuts will fall on the middle class and the poor, while the tax cuts overwhelmingly favor the rich. For example, the tax cut passed last week will raise the after-tax income of most people by less than 1 percent – not nearly enough to compensate them for the loss of benefits. But people with incomes over $1 million per year will, on average, see their after-tax income rise 4.4 percent.

The Financial Times suggests this is deliberate (and I agree): “For them,” it says of those extreme Republicans, “undermining the multilateral international order is not enough; long-held views on income distribution also require radical revision.”

How can this be happening? Most people, even most liberals, are complacent. They don’t realize how dire the fiscal outlook really is, and they don’t read what the ideologues write. They imagine that the Bush administration, like the Reagan administration, will modify our system only at the edges, that it won’t destroy the social safety net built up over the past 70 years.

But the people now running America aren’t conservatives: they’re radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what’s going on, but when will the public wake up?

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/27/opinion/27KRUG.html?ex=1055485847&ei=1&en=3e09fba2619c1d97

 

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No Man’s Land

No Man’s Land: Sweden Unveils Girls-Only Festival to Avoid Rape

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Europe

12:31 03.08.2017(updated 12:34 03.08.2017) Get short URL

The sexual assaults and rapes that have plagued Swedish summer festivals for several years have spurred the authorities into action. A Swedish municipality is poised to arrange a “man-free” festival to avoid any harassment whatsoever, which goes against the grain of Sweden’s egalitarian, inclusive and gender-neutral ways, many argued.

 

© AFP 2017/ Anders WIKLUND / TT News Agency

Sweden Bracing for Another Record Year in ‘Festival Rapes’

 

Earlier this summer, comedian and program leader Emma Knyckare proposed arranging a festival without men amid a seemingly incessant wave of sexual assaults, which earned Sweden, which sees itself as having “the world’s first feminist government,” the unflattering moniker of “the rape capital of Europe.”

“What do you think of holding a super-cool festival where only non-men are welcome and keeping it up until ALL men have learned how to behave?” Emma Knyckare tweeted.

Shortly afterwards, Falkenberg Municipality in Halland County supported the radical feminist idea.

“I’ve always thought it’s an exciting idea,” Kristian Fannar of Falkenberg Municipality told the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

By his own admission, Fannar contacted Knyckare and received an answer within only half an hour. According to him, it may be either an open-air or an urban-based festival.

Emma Knycker’s initiative spurred mixed reactions. While many celebrated the initiative as progressive and women-friendly, others gave it a hostile reception.

“So all men have suddenly become rapists? All of you women who subscribe to this, do you also think your boyfriends, brothers, dads and grandpas are also rapists? Maybe I shall add ‘rapist’ to my CV then,” a user wrote.

However, artist Linnea Henriksson, who keenly supports the idea, suggested than “man-free” festivals were imperative.

“It’s really sad that it’s needed,” Henriksson said, arguing that a girls-only event is a must for female visitors who want to be treated with respect.

Fittingly, 19-year-old Zara Larsson, Sweden’s arguably biggest pop idol of today, who is known for her overtly feminist stance, sparked a controversy earlier this year by openly admitting she was a “man hater.”

According to Eva-Maria Svensson, a professor of law at the University of Gothenburg, it is unacceptable of a municipality to arrange — or even support — a festival that specifically excludes half the population.

“A municipality shall treat all citizens equally. A municipality may not discriminate against a particular group,” Eva-Maria Svensson told the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, citing the principle of equality that is universally applicable.

Furthermore, a festival where men are not welcome may face legal problems, as discrimination based on sex is illegal in Sweden.

“According to the Discrimination Act, it’s not allowed to treat women and men differently with regards to access to public places,” lawyer Eberhard Stüber told Swedish national broadcaster SVT. According to him, women’s prisons are an example of substantial reasons for special treatment, whereas organizing a festival does not constitute such.

Previously, Bråvalla festival, which markets itself as “Sweden’s biggest music festival” was canceled for 2018 following numerous reports of rapes and sexual assaults. This year alone, four rapes were recorded during the Bråvalla festival, together with 23 cases of sexual molestation, one case of sexual coercion, 13 assaults, 116 cases of minor narcotics offences and 97 thefts, police reported. The 2016 Bråvalla event witnessed the same problems. The organizers lamented their decision to cancel next year’s festival, blaming “certain men,” who “apparently cannot behave.”

All in all, about 20 rapes and 90 sexual assaults have been reported at Swedish summer festivals so far this year, with a unpredictably high number of unreported cases.

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Natura Insects: Delicate Floral Compositions

Interesting.

ALK3R

Natura Insects is a beautiful series from the Japanese artist and designer Raku Inoue, currently based in Montreal, who imagines delicate floral compositions by recreating insects with leaves and flower petals.

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