Sweden Democrat’s deputy speaker sufficiently emboldened to show his xenophobic colours

The Sweden Democrats have been emboldened by the current political turbulence – more akin to a low farce – to speak out much more openly about their core agenda. The Sweden Democrats are a far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-immigration, xenophobic party with its roots in the neo-Nazi world. They have quite successfully managed to keep this agenda hidden under a cloak of pseudo-nationalism and have managed to get into a “balance of power” position. They are the 3rd largest party in the Swedish parliament and have even managed to get a member into the position of Deputy Speaker.

Of course it is the current situation where an extra election has been called which means that even the Deputy Speaker in a sitting Parliament is now focused on electioneering. And the current turbulence is due in no small part to the incompetence of the Red/Green coalition coalition government in putting forward a budget which could not be passed. They put together an extreme, leftist budget which gave the Sweden Democrats the wonderful opportunity to defeat it in parliament. SD members all over the country are both energised and emboldened. Yesterday another party member argued that water-boarding was not, in fact, torture and was perfectly acceptable as an interrogation technique.

Of course the Sweden Democrats are being opportunistic, but it was the farcical situation generated by Stefan Löfven and his Green partners which gave them the opportunity. Moreover the “rehabilitated”, somewhat cleaner image of the Sweden Democrats is primarily due to their personable leader, Jimmy Åkesson. But he is off sick due to stress and many of the Sweden Democrat “cowboys” have had no restraining influence to keep them in order.

There is one area however where the Sweden Democrats have put their finger on the pulse of the problem not just in Sweden but all over Europe. A society can be multi-ethnic but it cannot be multi-cultural. The treatment of “multi-culturism” as a god has been a major blunder. A new culture has to and does evolve if allowed and encouraged to. There is little doubt that most European countries have put too little effort in getting their immigrants to adapt to their new surroundings and instead have encouraged them to develop their own separate enclaves. Preserving cultures from other times and other spaces has been prioritised over encouraging the new culture to evolve. A fear of being labelled racist has led to many types of immigrant behaviour, which are incompatible with the new society, being permitted and preserved. As in Rotherham.

Where the Sweden Democrats go completely wrong is in thinking that a predominant culture can be frozen into a past image and can avoid evolution as necessary immigration occurs. And Björn Söder even though he is Deputy Speaker, has already started electioneering. In his latest interview with Dagens Nyheter he brings his xenophobic views into the open and has managed to bring both his own position and Parliament as a whole into disrepute. Some extracts follow:

Reduced immigration is just one of several means for SD to reach its main objectives: to reshape Sweden in to a more nationalistic country. Sami people, Kurds and Jews can live in Sweden – but they are not Swedes, according to SD’s party secretary Björn Söder. He wants to pay immigrants to leave the country: “It would be great with a repatriation grant.” …..

Who is it that does not fit in to SD’s vision of Sweden?

– We stand for an inclusive society, so anyone who wants to fit. We have an open Swedishness which also includes people with roots abroad. But one must adapt to the Swedish and be assimilated to become Swedish.

Do you have to be a nationalist to be part of the Sweden you want to see?

– Absolutely not. I certainly have a lot in common with a liberal who grew up in Sweden – although we have different political views. But we have a unity, we celebrate the same festivals and also has some basic values in common, that the belief in democracy and the rights of women. Therefore, we have a sense of community.

The Swedes who have multiple identities, then? You say that we have people from “other nations” living in Sweden.

– Yes. There are, for example, people belonging to the Sami or the Jewish nation in Sweden.

Can one not be both a Jew and Swedish, at the same time?

– I think most of Jewish origin that have become Swedes leave their Jewish identity. But if they do not do it need not be a problem. One must distinguish between citizenship and nationhood. They can still be Swedish citizens and live in Sweden. Samer and Jews have lived in Sweden for a long time.

The comedian Soran Ismail used to say that he is 100 percent Swedish and 100 percent Kurds. Can not it be so?

– I do not think you can, to belong to two nations that way. However, Kurds could be Swedish citizens. The problem is if there will be too many in Sweden who belong to other nations.

This summer, you shared an article from the SD newspaper Samtiden on your Facebook page. “Swedes in the minority in Malmö,” read the headline. The article wrote that people of foreign origin – at least one parent born abroad – were more than 50 percent of the population in Malmö. You also wrote that in your FB post: “Swedes are now in the minority in Sweden’s third largest city.” Do you mean that everyone with a foreign-born mother or father is not Swedish?

– Wasn’t it that  Swedes were in the minority in the age group under 18?

No, I do not think so [I check later and the article is about all the people of Malmö].

– Anyway many living in Malmo are not Swedish, they are representatives of other nations. Not least, the Arab nation.

Which country is the “Arab nation”?

– No, there’s no country of that name. Arabs coming from several states. It is in any case desirable that a States’ geographical boundaries should coincide with the spread of its people.

It sounds like the argument Putin uses when he activates the Russian minorities in Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia.

– The problem there is that the Soviet Union placed great Russian nations in the Baltic States, it was a strategy of taking over. It is an imperial, chauvinistic nationalism that has nothing to to do with SD’s ideology 

If many residents of Malmö are not a part of the national community that you and your party want to build – what do you do with them?

– They must adapt and become a part of the Swedish nation. We have an open Swedishness, an individual can become Swedish regardless of background. But it requires that they be assimilated. And the problem with Malmö is that we have brought in too many. If very many from other nations live together in Sweden, it creates foreign enclaves in Sweden.

When I listen to you, it sounds as if all who come from an Arab country are alike. But the people of Malmö I know are very different among themselves, even those whose families originated from the same country.

– Sure, it might be so. You and I are also different from each other. But some fundamental value elements unite us. We both grew up in Sweden and it has shaped us. If you have a different cultural background there are other values that unite.

Malmo is multicultural and much of the city’s identity lies in that it is an immigrant city. Those who grow up in Malmö today speak a different dialect of Skånska than those who grew up here a few decades ago. More like Zlatan. They grow up in an environment where different cultures mixed together. Is that bad?

– I think many of them will lose their identities eventually. They will ask: what country do I belong to? It becomes an identity-less society. And obviously there is a problem in Malmo because the economy is so lousy. The rest of the country must prop up Malmo with fiscal equalization. If Malmö had been so good its problems would not have been so great and so obvious.

Söder is rather simplistic and superficial in his views. But he does have a point. The future of Europe is irrevocably multi-ethnic (and that is a comment only on ancestry). But the multi-ethnic Europe has to develop a new, vibrant, inclusive culture and that can neither be the old culture nor a multitude of separated cultures. You have as many societies as you have distinct cultures. It has to be one, new culture which assimilates the best part of the contributing cultures.

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