By Nima Gholam Ali Pour
In Sweden, as in many other suburbs throughout Europe, the repression from which many refugees are fleeing, instead seems to be following them there. Nalin Pekgul, who defines herself as a practicing Muslim and has served as a politician in the Social Democrat Party, stated that in immigrant-settled areas, such as Stockholm’s Tensta suburb, where she lives, the self-appointed “morality police” gather outside assembly rooms to prevent young people from entering if they try to organize parties with music. Islamist organizations in Sweden, Pekgul says, have strengthened their position through support from Saudi Arabia and Sweden’s government agencies, media, political parties and so on.
According to Pekgul, there are many Muslims in in Sweden who have become fundamentalists. For calling public attention to these changes, Pekgul has been called an “Islamophobe”. When, in protest against the extremist Muslims, she began wearing short skirts in Tensta, she was harassed.
Another Muslim, Zeliha Dagli, who came to Sweden from Turkey in 1985 and was an elected representative of the Left Party in Sweden, has fought for women’s rights in Stockholm’s immigrant suburbs for 25 years. In 2015, she wrote:
“Once upon a time I ran away, terrified of my childhood imams in our former homeland. Some of them controlled the girls in the village. Older girls were not allowed to pass through the square in the village, but had to sneak and take detours and make themselves ‘invisible’.
“That shadow persecuted me, and in Sweden I tried to get peace and quiet. But in the city of Uppsala, where I first arrived, my life continued to be controlled by my countrymen, and I fled from that shadow to Stockholm…. Even there I was persecuted by the ‘shadow’ and I now live in Husby. Still, even here I see all the ‘shadows’ you can imagine, and I do not have the right to an open and independent life: I am constantly monitored.
“I want a sanctuary, and I want to have a glass of beer with my friends, Lars, Hassan, Maria, Osman…. I also want to go to the senior citizen’s association and listen to jazz and dance. I want to grow vegetables on my allotment while wearing and hang out with my friends and go to the bathhouse in a bikini.
“In my neighborhood, I would like to escape the judgmental eyes of staring men. I want to bring home whomever I want, but today I cannot because my rights are limited and controlled in my own neighborhood. All these bearded ‘shadows’ scare me.”
For speaking out, Dagli, too, was harassed. This year, she was forced to move from Stockholm’s immigrant suburbs:
“Now I have moved from my beloved Husby suburb. I miss it a lot, but I grew tired of constantly explaining to myself completely obvious things about my privacy, and being questioned because I do not use a veil despite being a Muslim, and being called a whore.”
These women are not some right-wing pundits who criticize Islam. Instead, they are Muslim women who are denied fundamental rights in Sweden because they are women and happen to live in communities where parallel Islamic social structures have been created.
Such parallel Islamic social structures also affect the LGBT community. In Tensta, local politicians decided that the Gay Pride flag will be raised in the city center in August every year, when the Gay Pride week takes place. When the flag was hoisted in Tensta last year it was torn down after a few hours, and both the flag and flagpole were stolen. One of the local politicians who put forward the proposal to raise the flag said: “There are cultural, and certainly even religious, beliefs that believe that LGBT should not be in public space.”
Rissne is a district in the municipality of Sundbyberg, just north of the capital Stockholm. The majority of the residents in Rissne are either immigrants or born to immigrant parents. When a park bench in the center of Rissne was painted the colors of the rainbow flag, it was burned down and a message was scribbled on the wall: “[Gay] Pride is not for Rissne”. Because there were no witnesses, the police chose not to investigate the incident.
That homosexuality creates unrest in some immigrant areas is not a secret. It is precisely this situation, however, that led an activist, Jan Sjunesson, in 2015, to stage Gay Pride Järva (Järva is a district of Stockholm), a Gay Pride parade through Stockholm’s immigrant suburbs. While many apparently considered Sjunesson’s parade to be a provocation, Sjunesson believes he is fighting for the rights of LGBT people there. No one knows how some Muslims in these immigrant areas will react. The parade creates a lot of nervousness in the Swedish media every year because of hostile reactions from the local Muslim population.
In April, the Swedish media reported how the Al-Azhar Islamic charter school in Stockholm separates boys and girls on the school bus. The girls enter through the back door, while the boys enter through the door at the front. The history of U.S. civil rights is probably not mentioned in Al-Azhar’s history class.
It is impossible now to say that Sweden is an ultra-liberal country while there are areas in Sweden where women with short skirts and LGBT citizens are harassed because of their clothes and sexual orientation. Intolerance has simply become part of today’s multicultural Sweden.
The lesson to be learned from these contrasts is to see through the Swedish politicians who try to portray Sweden as a liberal and tolerant paradise. Experience from the immigrant suburbs of Sweden’s cities shows that a large part of Sweden’s population is not part of the feminist and liberal Sweden. Liberals are harassed by Islamists every day because in their communities, there is a lack of tolerance.
The problem is that those who govern Sweden do not originate from, or have any deeper knowledge about, the immigrant suburbs where people cannot live as free citizens, and clearly have no interest in these suburbs. The LGBT movement and the feminist movement prefer to silence those who protest Islamic oppression in Sweden’s immigrant suburbs. They want to silence it to the extent that even Muslims are portrayed as “Islamophobes.”
Unfortunately, immigrants in the suburbs will live under this Islamist plague until the Islamists grow so strong that they become a threat to the liberal values of the elites. When the Islamists begin to disturb the liberal elites and their cultural sphere, the liberals in Sweden may see them as a problem. Ironically, for these liberal elites, who not long ago wanted to save the world through a liberal refugee policy, their primary motivation now seems simply to be self-interest.
Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a member of the board of education in the Swedish city of Malmö and is engaged in several Swedish think tanks concerned with the Middle East. He is also editor for the social conservative website Situation Malmö, and is the author of the Swedish book “Därför är mångkultur förtryck”(“Why Multiculturalism is Oppression”).