The extremist party the Sweden Democrats have voiced support for Donald Trump and his remarks about Sweden during his speech last week. Both Trump and his new friends in the Sweden Democrats are alluding to a false picture of Sweden that’s being spread with the sole purpose to create conflict and fortify a nationalist agenda.
After Donald Trump’s remarks about Sweden last week, many Swedes were baffled, and rightfully so. It was like the US President was speaking about a country in another, gruesome dimension.
The reality is quite different.
Immigration has contributed to Sweden’s prosperity
The Swedish economy is booming. Not despite but to some extent thanks to Sweden’s generous immigration policies. Sweden ranks first in Forbes’ annual list of the Best Countries for Business 2017.
Furthermore, a 2015 report by Swedish economists Sandro Scocco and Lars Fredrik Andersson, concluded that immigration from the 50’s until today has contributed to the Swedish economy with a net value of about a hundred billion dollars.
Our small nation, with roughly ten million inhabitants, would be much poorer without immigration.
Sweden is safer than before
Sweden is also, in many respects, safer than ever before.
The rate of self reported exposure to assault is going down according to The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRÅ).
Murder and manslaughter has stayed on a steady level since 2005. The overall trend is, however, a significant decrease since the 90’s. This has occurred even though the population has grown with about a million since then. The current rate of intentional homicide is about 1 per 100 000 people in Sweden, according to the World Bank. The rate in the US is about 5 per 100 000 people.
Self reported exposure to sex offences has stayed steady during the past years. There was an increase in 2015, but BRÅ reports that these statistics can’t be interpreted as a definitive increase. Reports to the police about rape, however, went down with twelve per cent between 2014 and 2015.
The Swedish government takes rape seriously and is therefore currently preparing new legislation (SOU 2016:60). This will entail offences not previously categorised as rape. In Sweden we have a high report rate of rape compared to most other countries, partly thanks to a public debate that has aimed to eradicate the stigma for victims to come forward and report the rapist. Thanks to a strong feminist movement in Sweden, the government is effective with legislative actions to combat sexual offences.
What about riots?
There are areas in Sweden that are occasionally struck by social unrest. These are mainly poor suburbs to the capital, Stockholm.
Since many people of immigrant descent live there, the Sweden Democrats are keen to blame these events on immigration and immigrants. They are always ignorant about the fact that the absolute majority of the inhabitants of these suburbs don’t riot and work tirelessly to keep their neighbourhood safe. For example this initiative with mothers patrolling the streets at night.
The riots should primarily be seen as a symtom of increasing socio-economic divides. This is underlined by the fact that riots and confrontations between youth and the police is not a new phenomenon in Sweden. There have been similar events in working class areas throughout Swedish history, long before Sweden provided shelter for refugees in larger numbers.
Södermalm in central Stockholm, nowadays inhabited by a prosperous middle class, used to be a working class area known for social unrest. In 1948, youth from the Södermalm area gathered in thousands, throwing bottles and stones at the police.
In 1951, police from five different cities were sent to Stockholm to engage against 3 000 civilians, rioting in the park of Berzelii. Yet another big riot occurred at Hötorget in 1965, right in the heart of Stockholm, with youth confronting police violently in large numbers. Similar events occurred in Kungsträdgården (“Kungsan”), central Stockholm, in 1987.
The list goes on.
The rioters today don’t match the numbers in these events, but usually consist of about 30–50 youngsters. This is indeed a problem. But it isn’t solved by targeting all the law abiding, working citizens of these areas with racist prejudice.
Who are the Sweden Democrats?
Therefore many of us are equally baffled by the views voiced by Mattias Karlsson and Jimmie Åkesson, leaders of the Sweden Democrats (SD), in Wall Street Journal (2/22/2017).
There should be serious concerns about the credibility of mr Karlsson and mr Åkesson.
It’s important to point out that they represents a party that sprung from various white supremacy groups in the late 80’s. Among the founders you find Gustav Ekström who served as SS-Rottenführer under Heinrich Himmler between the years 1942–1945.
They represent a party that occasionally had swastikas at their meetings during the 90’s – the same period when Mr Åkesson chose to join the party.
A party that still has problems with representatives voicing racist views and being convicted for hate speech. Research at Linköping University has found that the at least half of the voters of SD are politically motivated by xenophobia and islamophobia.
The Sweden Democrats are eager to point out criminal over representation among immigrants. An over representation that is usually explained by socio economic factors, demographic factors (larger male population), and racial bias in the justice system. Still, their own members of parliament, as a group, have a higher crime rate than immigrants in Sweden.
A Sweden Democrat MP is almost twice as likely to have been convicted for assault or aggravated assault as an immigrant in Sweden, according to an investigation by journalist Gellert Tamas.
The terror threat from nationalists and neo-Nazi groups
Jimmie Åkesson and Mattias Karlsson are eager to highlight the terror attempt in Stockholm in December 2010 by an islamic extremist.
But they fail to tell you about the de facto greatest domestic terror threat, which is terrorism committed by nationalists and neo-Nazis.
- Recently three neo-Nazis associated with the so called Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) were arrested after an asylum centre in Gothenburg was targeted with a homemade bomb attack on the 5th of January, leaving one person seriously injured.
- Another neo-Nazi was arrested in January for the bombing of a trade union office in Gothenburg on the 11th of November last year.
- In 2015, a Swedish neo-Nazi who had said he was going ”to be bigger than Breivik” was arrested with 550 kilograms of dynamite. He was later convicted together with the person who sold him the explosives. With ”Breivik” he was referring to the Norwegian right wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who claimed 77 lives, leaving 110 injured, on the 22nd of July 2011. The biggest part of his victims were attendants of a summer camp organised by the Norwegian Workers’ party youth league.
- The 22nd of october, the terrorist Anton Lundin Petterson entered a school and stabbed three persons to death, injuring one severely. He specifically targeted persons of foreign descent.
- Between 2003 and 2010, the terrorist Peter Mangs shot more than a dozen people, killing some. His target was people of immigrant descent.
We welcome Americans showing greater interest in Sweden and Swedish policy. But you deserve better sources of information than Donald Trump and representatives of an extremist party, such as the Sweden Democrats.
Text by Hanna Lundkvist