A mosque in Sweden that was hit by arson on Christmas Day is the latest warning that we cannot stand idly to the ever-rising tide of Islamophobia and far-right violence griping Europe these days. Words are not regular bullets that kill instantly but are time bombs that can explode anywhere and anytime.
The attack against the mosque that injured five in Eskilstuna, a city with a large immigrant population located west of the capital Stockholm, came after Sweden Democrat party secretary Björn Söder claimed over a week ago that Jews, Kurds and the Saami cannot be considered “true” Sweden unless they assimilate into Swedish society.
Anti-immigration parties support assimilation, or one-way integration of migrants and minorities, while in theory at least the adaption process should be a two-way street (integration).
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Söder’s statement doesn’t only expose his issues with racism but a whole mindset of hostility towards cultural diversity.
In other words, the Sweden Democrats, which brought down on December 3 the minority government of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, since the far-right party holds the balance of power in the country, believe that migrants and minorities must become white Swedes like him in order to be accepted as “true” Swedes.
What is a true Swede anyway? All Swedes migrated many generations ago to this part of Europe. The Garden of Eden never existed and is only a myth used in nativist ultra-nationalistic discourse.
In such logic we find as well the seeds of hatred and the failed assimilation policies of anti-immigration parties.
Is it only a question of time when such parties – if they ever get enough power – will start drafting modern Nuremberg Laws to stamp out cultural diversity? Can we afford to wait passively to see if this will happen?
Any sensible person can tell that the classification of who is a “true” Swede, or “true” European, is more than problematic. Nazi Germany found this out when it enacted the Nuremberg Laws and Reich Citizenship Law of 1935 to classify partial Jews, or Mischlinge.
Here’s how Nazi Germany classified Jews: full Jews and Jewish Mischling first or second degree. What these types of classifications revealed was anti-Semitism than anything else. Source: www.neztratitviru.net
What does a European anti-immigration party mean when it classifies itself as ethnically pure and the rest who are not like it as a threat? What do the Perussuomalaiset (PS)* and far-right Muutos 2011 of Finland mean when they claim that Muslims won’t integrate, Muslims are destroying our way of life, and Muslims are violent? What code does the National Front of France signal to its followers when it makes an anti-kebab statement, or when Jobbik of Hungary, Golden Dawn of Greece and Ukip openly target Jews and immigrants?
Rob Owen Bell wrote on a recent opinion piece claims that Islamophobia in the UK (and in Europe) is code for race-hate and religious bigotry:
While it is only right that we feel pity for the rare victims of this bizarre condition, we cheapen their suffering by continuing to tolerate the use of the term as code for race-hate and religious bigotry. How much longer are we going to give a platform to thugs in suits struggling to keep a straight face for the cameras as they state they’re “not racist, just against radical Islam”, while their mates swill Stella and chuck Nazi salutes in the background?
One matter is for certain: Things will get worse as long as politicians continue to accept such intolerance by remaining silent and treat racism with bandaids. We need more radical steps are needed to challenge the threat to Europe imposed by fascist, crypto-fascist anti-immigration parties.
Change will not take place as long as migrants and minorities are kept out of the decision-making process.
Why does a country like Finland, which has so few migrants when compared with other European countries, voted in 2011 for an anti-immigration party like the PS that become the third-largest bloc in parliament?
In my opinion it shows that most politicians in Finland, as well as our institutions and society, are still very much in the dark about the threat of fascism and nativist nationalism.
Finland’s xenophobia has its roots in the difficult relationship it had with the former Soviet Union in the last century. Everything was acceptable back then, even becoming an ally of Nazi Germany in the Continuation War (1941-44), as long as your reasoning was hatred of the USSR and communism.
We cannot effectively challenge intolerance in Finland as long as we continue to teach at our schools and homes that immigration and cultural diversity are illnesses. We should be teaching the opposite: inclusion and respect for difference and cultural diversity. Acknowledging that over 1.2 million Finns emigrated between 1860 and 1999 is a good starting point.
If Finland has many unanswered questions about how it went to bed with Nazi Germany during the Continuation War, Europe too has a serious issue with its colonial past and which still continues to bolster racism in all forms and shapes.
Europe needs today a totally new discourse on our identity in the new century and strong anti-discrimination laws that have teeth. As long as we teach the same myths and social constructs of the past, we are only delaying such a crucial debate just like the US delayed and continues to delay black and minority rights.
By delaying that important debate we permit ourselves to be chained by our intolerance.
Racism has always been Europe’s greatest threat.
It’s high time we understand this unless we want to commit the same disastrous mistakes of the past.
* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.