I am an immigrant in Sweden. I suppose I was, like any expat, an “economic migrant” when I was recruited into Sweden 32 years ago, since I accepted the economic package that was offered then to move to Sweden. But an initially expected 3 year stay has now become 32 years. Our children grew up here and though I have lived in five countries over the years (India, UK, Japan, Germany and Sweden), we have settled here and made Sweden our home. It is the most open country I know. And as the Swedish national anthem puts it Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden (“Yes, I wish to live, I wish to die in Norden”).
One aspect about life in Sweden that I find frustrating though, is the amount of servile conformity I find in the supposedly “free press” and among the main-stream political parties. Conformity and “political correctness” have religious overtones here. I suppose the media are free to apply self-censorship if they so wish. But their fear of deviating from “political correctness” borders on cowardice. It becomes interesting when one “political correctness” conflicts with another. In the wake of the mass sexual harassment of girls and young women by gangs of “asylum seeking youths”, the sexism narrative is pitted against the multiculturalism orthodoxy. We now have the ridiculous statements of Swedish feminists (and the conforming media), claiming that the harassment is just about gender and not about culture.
Normally the media are so sanctimonious and correct about “feminism” versus “sexism” (TV even more than the press), as to be positively embarrassing. I cringe at the banality of some of the programs on Swedish TV. They end up as religious ceremonies to the glory of the pc gods (and LGBT is the name of one such god). But it is apparently even more divinely correct to pretend that ignoring problems with immigrants (which are cultural rather than race or ethnicity issues), will make the problems go away. This fear is in turn based on the misguided assumption that culture and ethnicity are the same (or could be mistaken to be the same).
The media (and political parties) have lived in the belief that reporting problems with certain groups of immigrants will only play into the hands of the right-wing, anti-immigrant, Sweden Democrats. Yet the backlash to this intentional hiding of reality has only helped propel the Sweden Democrats to record highs in support. If the intentional self-censorship was meant to prevent that, then it has been spectacularly counter-productive. After the refugee crisis, the immigration policies of the Red/Green government are now almost identical to those proposed earlier by the Sweden Democrats. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that hiding a problem or pretending it does not exist, always precludes addressing the problem. Craven compliance with political correctness has become political cowardice. Integration of immigrants in large numbers can never be easy. There are different things to be done for integration depending upon whether the newcomers are from Somalia or Afghanistan or Morocco. But these things can be done. But not if the the press and authorities pretend that the problems don’t exist.
Why is it, for example, that it is only the right-wing web-sites and the foreign press which reports that the 15-year old asylum seeker who allegedly stabbed a young asylum worker to death was of Somali origin? There cannot be many people in Sweden who do not now know that – but yet the authorities and the mainstream media will not mention the fact. They persist – in a denial of intelligence – in pretending that the origin of the alleged murderer is not pertinent to the case.
Why is it that no part of the mainstream Swedish media has the courage to publish anything along the lines of these two recent articles in The Spectator. The Spectator in the UK may support the conservatives and is certainly right of centre, but it is hardly a fascist rag.
…… The answer can be discovered in the reaction to the Cologne attacks. Sweden prides itself on its sexual equality and has even pioneered a feminist foreign policy. When hundreds of women were reported to have been molested and abused in Cologne — at the hands of an organised mob — the reaction from Swedish politicians and pundits ought to have been one of outrage.
Instead, we were told that the events in Cologne were not unusual. An article in Aftonbladet, Sweden’s largest tabloid, argued that it was racist to point out that the perpetrators in Cologne had been described as North African or Arab, since German men had carried out sexual assaults during Bavaria’s Oktober-fest. Another Aftonbladet article said that reporting on the Cologne attacks was bowing to right-wing extremism. Over the last week, we have been told over and over that the real issue is men, not any particular culture — that Swedish men are no better.
Then last week Sweden’s own stories began to emerge.
And then The Spectator had this article about the murder of Alexandra Mezher by the alleged 15-year old Somali asylum-seeker.
…. Yesterday, a 15-year-old at an immigration centre stabbed and killed one of its female employees in Mölndal, near Gothenburg. It’s the kind of story that shakes the country to its core. Sweden has taken a staggering number of unaccompanied children – some 20,000 in the past four months – so the government has to act in loco parentis. To keep them out of trouble, as well as educate and accommodate then. It’s a very tough ask, a job that many Swedes fear is simply beyond the competence of government. In such circumstances, appalling things can happen.
A police spokesman had this to say:
‘It was messy, of course, a crime scene with blood. The perpetrator had been overpowered by other residents, people were depressed and upset. These kinds of calls are becoming more and more common… We’re dealing with more incidents like these since the arrival of so many more refugees from abroad.’
What makes this worse is that in Sweden, the police refuse to say if the suspect was an asylum seeker or not. This happens time and time again: a weird and unusual crime (say, a stabbing in Ikea or a rape on a ferry) and the Swedish police (and press) refuse to say whether the perpetrator is an immigrant – as if admitting as much would somehow feed anti-immigrant sentiment.
In fact, the refusal to level with the Swedish public is having the opposite effect. News of an attack brings grief and outrage, but the sense that the authorities are not telling the whole truth brings a new level of anger and suspicion. All of this further undermines public support for immigration, and hands votes to the Sweden Democrats.
….. And, in this way, a xenophobic populist backlash is being incubated in the most open country on earth.