Over the holidays, Sweden’s Muslim community was shaken by a string of attacks on mosques in several cities:
Swedish police launched a manhunt Thursday after the third arson attack against a mosque in a week, amid growing tensions over the rise of a far right anti-immigration movement.”People saw a man throwing something burning at the building,” police in Uppsala said in a statement, adding that the mosque in eastern Sweden did not catch fire and that the suspect had left behind “a text on the door expressing contempt for religion.” …
Thursday’s attack in Sweden’s fourth-largest city came just three days after a late-night blaze at a mosque in Esloev in the south, which police suspect was also arson. On Christmas Day, five people were injured when a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of a mosque in Eskilstuna, east of the capital Stockholm.
Local residents in Uppsala responded to the attack by “love-bombing” the damaged mosque with notes of support. Amanda Taub applauds:
The demonstration and “love bombing” were a powerful way for ordinary Swedes to reject racism and show support for Muslims. But the march also carried broader political significance, because it showed that Swedes felt a duty to publicly reaffirm the country’s identity as a place that is tolerant and welcoming towards immigrants.
In many countries, anti-immigrant populism dominates the public conversation about immigration not because it necessarily represents the majority view, but because people with more moderate and tolerant views don’t make it a priority to speak up publicly. These demonstrations suggest that Sweden may be different: thousands of people took to the streets to say that they are not willing to stay silent, and will not allow extremists to dominate the debate.
Still, many Muslims throughout Europe have reason to be wary of their neighbors; a new poll finds that one in eight Germans would join an anti-Muslim march if one were organized in their hometown:
The survey highlighted growing support in Germany, as in other European Union countries including Britain and Sweden, for parties and movements tapping into voter fears that mainstream politicians are too soft on immigration.
Some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc worry that they risk losing support to the euro-sceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has shifted its focus to immigration and includes many who also back the PEGIDA protest movement — Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. PEGIDA is holding weekly rallies in the eastern city of Dresden, and attracted more than 17,000 people to a Dec. 22 rally. A few small marches have taken place in other towns, and it plans to stage further rallies in other German cities.