While the Swedish government considers the burning of the Qur’an “freedom of speech,” it cannot prevent religious hate crimes that make Jews and Muslims uncomfortable.
According to the report published by the National Council for Crime Prevention (BRA), which operates under the country’s Ministry of Justice, in 2021, 51 percent of all hate crimes against religious groups are anti-Muslim, 27 percent are anti-Semitic, 11 percent are anti-Christian. , and 11 percent. I was registered for other groups.
While anti-Semitic hate crimes are mostly committed on social media and publicly available sources, more harassment and incitement are used in anti-Muslim violence.
Women have become more targets than men for hate crimes against Muslims and Jews.
On the other hand, while referring to this data in the 2021 Religious Freedom Report published by the US State Department, it was stated that many hate crimes were not reported to the police for various reasons.
“Normalizing Anti-Semitism” in Sweden
According to a survey of more than 16,000 people in 12 member states of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), anti-Semitism is “uncomfortably normal” in Sweden.
While 40 percent of respondents from Sweden reported having experienced antisemitic harassment in the five years preceding the survey, nearly a third of respondents said they had experienced antisemitic harassment within the 12 months.
In addition, 39 percent of respondents said they were worried about becoming a victim of anti-Semitic verbal abuse or harassment within 12 months, and 27 percent feared being physically assaulted in the same period.
Rising wave with the Swedish Democratic Party
The far-right Sweden Democrats won 17 percent of the vote in 2017 and 20 percent in 2022, increasing cases of anti-Semitism in the country.
In the country of 15,000 Jews, Malmo is reported to be where most cases of anti-Semitism are experienced. Anti-Semitism continues to surface at regular intervals in the city.
According to EU research conducted in 2019, cases of anti-Semitism increased by 70 percent in the past five years in Malmö, one of the cities marked by anti-Semitism.
The number of synagogue members in Malmö is reported to have decreased from 2,500 to 500 in the past 20 years.
The Swedish government attempted to improve its image by hosting a “Holocaust Remembrance and Anti-Semitism Forum” in the city after reactions about the situation in Malmö.
In 2021, while an anti-Semitism forum was taking place in the city, the words “The Holocaust was a hoax” were projected onto the Malmö synagogue. The Nordic-Neonazi Resistance Movement claimed responsibility for the attack.
Sweden through the eyes of the Jews
Officials of Jewish organizations about the situation in Sweden sometimes express their concerns in open sources.
According to Jonathan Greenblatt, president of the Anti-Defamation League and Denialism (ADL), Swedish Jews are concerned about anti-Semitism and do not feel entirely comfortable expressing their Jewishness in the country.
Brenda Katten, who works to integrate immigrants and heads the Israel, UK and Commonwealth Association, also finds it difficult to live in Sweden as a Jew. Katten believes that members of the Jewish community face rising anti-Semitism in Sweden and live in fear of physical or verbal abuse.
Former World Jewish Congress (WJC) President, European Council for Tolerance and Reconciliation, and World Holocaust Forum President Moshe Kantor notes that a large part of the Jewish community has left the city due to anti-Semitic cases seen in countries like Sweden in recent years. Kantor quoted an old Swedish woman as saying, “Sweden has never been anti-Semitic, it has changed.” He recalled that Sweden had been informed of the problem, solutions had been proposed, and now it was necessary to see the implementation of these plans.
Siavush Derakhti, who works against anti-Semitism and xenophobia, reported that the rabbi of the Malmö synagogue, Shnor Kesselman, spat while walking and had a water bottle thrown at his head. Pointing out that Jews left Sweden because they faced such anti-Semitic cases, Drachti stated that Malmö’s Jewish community had decreased by 50 percent in the past ten years. According to Drachti, anti-Semitism threatens the existence of minorities in Malmö.
One of the recent cases in Sweden, which has been described as anti-Semitic, involved Rebecca Wallenqvist, a leading figure in the far-right Sweden Democrats. Wallenqvist, who used the expression “immoral” for Anne Frank, who died as a child in a Nazi concentration camp and is known for her memoirs, received harsh reactions from both inside and outside the country. Subsequently, his party had to remove Wallenqvist from office by initiating disciplinary proceedings.
One of the cases that was on the agenda in the country was the case of Jewish doctors, which began in 2019 and continued until the end of last year. According to Swedish newspaper reports, three Jewish neurosurgeons working at Karolinska University Hospital have been harassed by their bosses, who are known for their anti-Semitic rhetoric on their social media accounts. While two doctors were leaving the hospital, there were some obstacles for the other doctor because of his boss. The hospital administration dismissed the head of the hospital after two years of complaints. However, Jewish doctors said that harassment in the hospital continues. Meanwhile, the Swedish Employment Court ruled on September 1, 2022 that there was no legal justification for dismissing a boss accused of anti-Semitism.
UN warns that “Sweden must intensify its efforts to combat systemic racism”
A delegation of independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council visited Sweden on November 4, 2022. Justice and racial equality experts Tracy Casey, Yvonne Mocjuru and Juan Mendez held talks in Stockholm, Malmö and Lund.
Independent experts from the council urged Sweden to step up efforts to combat systemic racism and focus on strategies to restore trust between the police and minority groups.
Expert Tracy Casey expressed the concern many people feel when it comes to their communities’ interactions with the police. Casey also stressed that the Swedish police must diversify their staff to reflect the multicultural society.
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