Uniting to defend Muslims and Roma in Sweden

Submitted by AWL on 6 January, 2015 - 6:27 Author: Gustav Sternhamner

In Sweden, as across Europe, far-right and racist ideas are increasingly popular. Last autumn’s general election saw the anti-immigrant, far-right Sweden Democrats win almost 13 per cent of the vote and 49 MPs.

Parallel to this has been a rise of direct violence and threats against minority groups, in particular Muslims and Roma. During the Christmas holidays three mosques around the country were attacked by arsonists. Five people were injured and many Muslims say they feel unsafe at home and at mosque. Anti-racists have organised rallies in opposition to the far-right and in solidarity with victims of their violence. Under the slogan of “Don’t touch my mosque”, 600 people gathered on Friday 2 January outside Parliament in Stockholm to support the Muslim community and condemn the Islamophobic attacks. The rally – coordinated with other large meetings in other cities and publicised almost entirely on Facebook – was addressed by representatives from Muslim organisations, parliamentary parties and civil society groups. It was jointly organised by several organisations.

December 2013 also saw Sweden’s largest anti-racist rally in years as 16,000 people assembled in Stockholm following a Nazi attack. Last summer demonstrators frequently gathered to blockade marches by marginal, albeit vocal, Nazi organisations. Sweden Democrat election rallies were often met by spontaneous acts of protest from members of the public.

Anti-racist groups exist, yet the emerging popular resistance to racism has often been reactive and leaderless in character.

Although political parties on the left, in particular the Left Party, have been influential in shaping the language of anti-racism, there’s a sense that this movement is emerging from the grassroots and is being shaped by combating everyday norms and casual racism as well as on the streets and in protests against racist parties.