Researcher: Muslim antisemitism ‘is a real and serious problem’ in Sweden

“Attitude surveys suggest that anti-Semitic views in Sweden are clearly more widespread among the Muslim group than among Christians or non-religious people. We have also seen a number of examples of anti-Semitic manifestations and incidents which can be tied to individuals with a background in the Middle East, as well as anti-Jewish propaganda spread from Islamist quarters. That development, similar to what we can see in several other western European countries, is a real and serious problem….

And, right after saying this, the researcher says not to generalize all Muslims:

Anti-Semitism is a societal problem, it is multifaceted, it is found in different parts of the population and political contexts, and can’t be reduced to a problem in groups of a migrant background…

What he is trying to say is that Muslim antisemitism is not the only type of antisemitism there is. Understandable. However, the issue is a big problem for a countries that want to look about bringing in migrants from majority-Muslim countries. They are, in effect, bringing in antisemitic attitudes.

Take, for example:

The Circumvent also recently pondered on the phenomenon that Muslims who receive media attention for doing something “amazing” (modeling, singing, protesting) always seem to have a history of antisemitism on social media.

The Local, February 6, 2018. (Archive link)

In December 2017 Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven admitted that “we have a problem in Swedish society with anti-Semitism,” following an arson attack on a synagogue in Gothenburg and anti-Semitic chants at a demonstration in Malmö earlier that month.
This article is part of The Local’s Sweden in Focus series, an in-depth look at the issues that make this country tick.

“We need to be really clear that such anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews has no place in our society. This shouldn’t have any place,” the prime minister reiterated. The concession marked a turning point – the clearest acknowledgment from a Swedish leader that anti-Semitism is a problem in the country.

In the decade prior, concerns had increasingly been raised about anti-Jewish sentiment in the Nordic nation. Perhaps most notably, in December 2010 the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a warning urging Jews to exercise “extreme caution” when travelling to southern Sweden, one it has yet to lift.

But the anti-Semitism Sweden is struggling with is not a recent phenomenon. According to Henrik Bachner, a historian of ideas and leading researcher on anti-Semitism in Sweden, the issue has been around for some time, even if it is being talked about more.

“Anti-Semitism is a problem in Swedish society. It is not a new problem, but it has become clearer during recent decades. Anti-Jewish ideas have been given greater circulation through social media, we see a more aggressive anti-Semitism in the extreme right and Islamist fields, we see problems with anti-Jewish attitudes among certain immigrant groups, and we have seen a reinforced anti-Semitic current in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worsening, like for example during the 2008-09 Gaza War and 2014 conflict,” he tells The Local.

“We don’t know how many hate crimes towards Jewish targets have been committed, but the number of registered hate crimes with an anti-Semitic motive is at a somewhat higher level than it was 10-15 years ago.”

According to the most-recent figures from Sweden’s National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), an average of 228 anti-Semitic hate crimes are reported per year in the country. Compared to other hate crimes which show either a sharp fall or increase, the figure has remained at a relatively steady level in the past decade, but has a tendency to peak following heightened turmoil in Israel, like in 2015 when there were 277 reported instances compared to 182 the following year in 2016. The most common places where anti-Semitic hate crimes are reported to have occurred are public places (24 percent) followed by online (20 percent).

It should be noted that data on anti-Semitism in Sweden is – as several of the experts The Local spoke to acknowledged – frustratingly limited. The available attitude surveys in the field are now several years old, and even Brå’s statistics on reported hate crimes only provide an image of reported crimes, rather than actual confirmed instances of hate crimes or incidents that go unreported. The last available data on the number of anti-Semitic hate crime reports processed by the Swedish police comes from those registered in 2015, where as of May 2017 more than half (58 percent) of the reports had been closed down after an investigation.

Hate crimes reported to police in Sweden by motive. The purple line shows reports of anti-Semitic hate crimes; yellow shows hate crimes related to sexual orientation; blue Islamophobic; red Christianophobic; orange other anti-religious motives; green transphobic. Photo: Brå

According to Brå, of hate crimes reported in 2016, three percent were considered to have anti-Semitic motives, five percent Christianophobic, seven percent Islamophobic, nine percent targeted sexual orientation, and 72 percent had xenophobic or racist motives. But Jewish representatives speak of increased reports within Sweden’s Jewish community of anti-Semitism, arguing that the statistics do not tell the whole story.

To improve the understanding, the Swedish government recently tasked Brå with carrying out a deeper study on anti-Semitic hate crimes in the country in order to strengthen preventative work, but the results will not be ready until June 2019. When announcing the commissioning of the study, Sweden’s Culture and Democracy Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke called anti-Semitism “an embarrassment for our society”.

The high-profile anti-Semitic incidents of 2017 can be linked with two areas: the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and the neo-Nazi movement. The December demonstration where anti-Semitic chants were heard in Malmö for example was in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the latter city as the Israeli capital. In September meanwhile, a neo-Nazi demonstration planned to walk past a synagogue in Gothenburg on the holy Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, only being prevented from doing so at the last minute by a Swedish court.

“Attitude surveys suggest that anti-Semitic views in Sweden are clearly more widespread among the Muslim group than among Christians or non-religious people. We have also seen a number of examples of anti-Semitic manifestations and incidents which can be tied to individuals with a background in the Middle East, as well as anti-Jewish propaganda spread from Islamist quarters. That development, similar to what we can see in several other western European countries, is a real and serious problem,” researcher Bachner says.

“But that problem does not permit generalized statements about Muslims or groups with a background in the Middle East. Anti-Semitism is a societal problem, it is multifaceted, it is found in different parts of the population and political contexts, and can’t be reduced to a problem in groups of a migrant background. That’s important to emphasize in light of right-wing nationalist opinions, which often spread hostility towards Jews, and themselves love to position anti-Semitism as a problem limited to Muslim groups and exploit the issue in order to cast suspicion on and stigmatize Muslims.”

Only two polls of attitudes on anti-Semitism have been carried out in Sweden. Both were ordered by the Living History Forum, a Swedish public agency which works on human rights, tolerance and democracy issues. The most recent is from 2010 (the other is from 2005), and suggested that while 18 percent of Swedish upper secondary school students expressed anti-Semitic attitudes towards Jews, that number increased to 55 percent among students who identified as Muslim….