Sweden’s Violent Reality Is Undoing a Peaceful Self-Image

Paulina Neuding, Politico, April 16, 2018

Sweden may be known for its popular music, IKEA and a generous welfare state. It is also increasingly associated with a rising number of Islamic State recruits, bombings and hand grenade attacks.

In a period of two weeks earlier this year, five explosions took place in the country. It’s not unusual these days — Swedes have grown accustomed to headlines of violent crime, witness intimidation and gangland executions. In a country long renowned for its safety, voters cite “law and order” as the most important issue ahead of the general election in September.

The topic of crime is sensitive, however, and debate about the issue in the consensus-oriented Scandinavian society is restricted by taboos.

{snip}

Gang-related gun murders, now mainly a phenomenon among men with immigrant backgrounds in the country’s parallel societies, increased from 4 per year in the early 1990s to around 40 last year. Because of this, Sweden has gone from being a low-crime country to having homicide rates significantly above the Western European average. Social unrest, with car torchings, attacks on first responders and even riots, is a recurring phenomenon.

Shootings in the country have become so common that they don’t make top headlines anymore, unless they are spectacular or lead to fatalities. News of attacks are quickly replaced with headlines about sports events and celebrities, as readers have become desensitized to the violence. A generation ago, bombings against the police and riots were extremely rare events. Today, reading about such incidents is considered part of daily life.

The rising levels of violence have not gone unnoticed by Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors. Norwegians commonly use the phrase “Swedish conditions” to describe crime and social unrest. The view from Denmark was made clear when former President of NATO and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview on Swedish TV: “I often use Sweden as a deterring example.”

In response, the Swedish government has launched an international campaign for “the image of Sweden” playing down the rise in crime, both in its media strategy and through tax-funded PR campaigns. {snip}

{snip}

Since crime is intimately linked to the country’s failure to integrate its immigrants, the rise in violence is a sensitive subject. When the Swedish government and opposition refer to the country as a “humanitarian superpower” because it opened its doors to more immigrants per capita during the migrant crisis than any other EU country, they mean it. This has resulted in some impressive contortions.

In March, Labor Market Minister Ylva Johansson appeared on the BBC, where she claimed that the number of reported rapes and sexual harassment cases “is going down and going down and going down.” In fact, the opposite is true, which Johansson later admitted in an apology.

Similarly, in an op-ed for the Washington Post, former Prime Minister Carl Bildt described the country’s immigration policy as a success story. He did not elaborate on violent crime. {snip}

{snip}

Another spectacular example is an official government website on “Facts about migration, integration and crime in Sweden,” which alleges to debunk myths about the country. One “false claim” listed by the government is that “Not long ago, Sweden saw its first Islamic terrorist attack.”

This is surprising, since the Uzbek jihadist Rakhmat Akilov has pleaded guilty to the truck ramming that killed five people in Stockholm last April and swore allegiance to the Islamic State prior to the attack. Akilov, who is currently standing trial, has proudly repeated his support for ISIS and stated that his motive was to kill Swedish citizens. He also had documented contacts with international jihadis.

{snip}

Topics: , , , , , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.