Sweden / 25-08-2011
On hostility against Jews and fear from Islam
"Generally speaking, Sweden is a tolerant country, but the report shows that racism is increasing", said yesterday the Integration Minister, Erik Ullenhag, when receiving the "Antisemitism and Islamophobia – spring 2011 state of affairs" report.
That's a rather dramatic interpretation. What the authors of that report of the "Forum för levande historia" ("Forum for living history") did was to review crime statistics and discrimination cases, an approach that provides a quite blurry picture. The principles of data collection vary, the term "hate crime" is perceived differently in different circumstances and the authors themselves refer us time and again to different black numbers – from that, it's possible to understand everything, nothing and the great part in between.
But their task of reviewing antisemitism and islamophobia, as if these were parallel phenomena, was not an easy one. Antisemitism frequently manifests itself as hostility towards Jews, not against the Jewish religion. Islamophobia – literally, an irrational fear from Islam – probably, cannot be something different than simply an anti-religious opinion.
It's difficult to find in Sweden a widespread fear from Mohammed, the Qur'an or Imams. However, distrust, prejudices and hatred towards Muslims, related to a general hostility against anything perceived as foreign elements, do exist. The question whether this should be defined as islamophobia, is in most cases a matter of a subjective evaluation.
Perhaps, it seems as a selective and choosy stance, but "the definition of terms is important in order to study the problems", says the report. Thus, the choice made by the author and by the orderer of that report is not a so fortunate and useful one.