It began last week, when one Omar Mustafa was elected to the governing board of the Social Democrats, Sweden’s oldest and largest political party. Mustafa already had an influential position in Swedish society – namely, as head of that nation’s Islamic Association. Nowadays, of course, such an appointment isn’t exactly remarkable: on the contrary, given the determined, concerted effort throughout Europe to incorporate orthodox Muslim community leaders into higher and higher ranks of the left-wing political establishment, Mustafa’s elevation was just one more step along the way.
The problems started, however, when critics started pointing out things about Mustafa that weren’t exactly consistent with Social Democratic doctrine. During his tenure at the Islamic Association, for example, he’s invited a rogues’ gallery of Islamic ideologues to Stockholm to give speeches and participate in conferences. Among them: Egyptian Salah Sultan, who, as Benjamin Weinthal reported in the Jerusalem Post, “claimed on the television channel Al Jazeera that the Jews during Passover committed ritual murder of Christians”; British-Palestinian Azzam Tamimi, who has described Israel as “a cancer”; and Sheik Abdullah Hakim Quick, who has called for the execution of gays. It also turned out that when NATO bombed Libya in 2011, Mustafa tweeted that Sweden should send fighter planes to Israel instead. On Facebook, moreover, Mustafa “liked” the page of Jew-hating Hitler fan Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Now, anybody who knows anything about Islamic Associations in the West – or, for that matter, about Islam itself – shouldn’t be surprised in the slightest by any of this. Every single “revelation” that came out last week about Mustafa’s statements and actions simply demonstrated that he’s a standard-issue European Islamic leader – which is to say that he’s an orthodox member of his faith, hewing firmly to its core tenets. It’s hardly news that somebody in his position “likes” Qaradawi – the creep is, after all, a scriptural expert whose interpretations and teachings are considered authoritative by his fellow Sunni believers around the world; he’s the closest thing Islam has to a Pope. Nor should it shock anyone that Sweden’s Islamic Association practices and defends sexual discrimination.
And of course, nobody in the Social Democratic hierarchy was shocked by any of this. They couldn’t have been. They know very well what they’ve allied themselves with. They don’t care. For on the left, the alliance with Islam trumps all other considerations, including the left’s supposed devotion to the rights of women, gays, and Jews. So it is that while any non-Muslim who says even the most innocuous thing that might be interpreted by the most oversensitive troublemaker as offensive to women or gays (not so much to Jews, though) can expect to be condemned in the harshest possible terms by morally alert socialists, Muslims are different. Muslims, in the eyes of those very same socialists, are exempt from such criticism, such, condemnation. They’re above it, precisely because, reality aside, today’s left-wing ideology insists on characterizing them as beneath everyone else – the ultimate victims, the most downtrodden of the downtrodden, the “least of these,” the quintessential “Other.” And since they’re on the very bottom, there’s nobody below them for them to stomp on – so that even when they spew the vilest, most murderous rhetoric about other groups, it just doesn’t count.
Such is the twisted logic that makes it possible for the likes of Mustafa to get to the top to the heap in today’s Europe.
As the “revelations” about Mustafa proliferated last week and the criticism of his appointment mounted, leading Social Democrats rushed to his defense. Peter Weiderud, head of a powerful socialist group and former adviser to Anna Lindh (the foreign minister who was assassinated in 2003), argued that the various comments about Jews made by Mustafa and his confrères shouldn’t be taken too seriously, for “what is racism in one context has another meaning in another context.” What he really meant here, I think, was that both multicultural principle and political pragmatism dictate that lefties turn away discreetly when confronted with the actual beliefs of their Muslim allies – for once they start focusing seriously on those beliefs and rolling them over in their minds, the whole house of cards may well start tumbling down.
In the end, Mustafa wasn’t fired from the party’s governing board. The national party leaders didn’t even ask him to resign. What happened was that Veronica Palm, head of the local party organization in Stockholm, requested that Mustafa go. Which he did. Palm explained her decision as a response not to Mustafa’s views themselves but to the controversy over them. “The situation became untenable,” she explained. “The past week’s developments meant that he wouldn’t have been able to do a good job.” She also made a telling remark about prejudice – not about Mustafa’s prejudice, mind you, but about the anti-Muslim prejudice, which, she appeared to imply, had brought him down: “This past week has been deplorable for me. I’ve realized that there’s a lot of hatred, racism and Islamophobia in Sweden.”
Meanwhile, party secretary Carin Jämtin seemed determined to distance the national party from Mustafa’s departure. Insisting that national party leaders had not asked for his resignation, she placed the responsibility for his exit squarely on Palm and her crew in Stockholm. Among the top party members who lamented Mustafa’s departure was former MP Mariam Osman Sherifay, who said, “I’m very critical of those who have depicted him as homophobic, anti-Semitic, and against equality between men and women…..Fear and Islamophobia have won.” Weiderud echoed her view, saying that Swedish Muslims were “extremely saddened and disappointed” by the whole kerfuffle and feel “hugely misunderstood” – for, after all, “Swedish Muslims are among the most progressive in the world, and Omar Mustafa is one of the most progressive.”
Mustafa himself, in the wake of the scandal, showed zero humility and had no apologies to offer. In a public statement, he lit into the Social Democratic leadership, which he accused of holding the view that one could not be active in service to both “the Muslim civil society” and to a political party. This, he maintained, sent “a frightening signal to Muslims and other religious Social Democrats.” In an open letter, he challenged Jämtin’s account of his resignation, insisting that national party leaders had forced him out. He also went on the attack in regard to the question of bigotry, saying that “the basic criticism” leveled against him amount to “a classic interrogation” of the sort that most Muslims who are involved in public life are accustomed to being subjected to: namely, “do I stand for the oppression of women, homophobia, anti-Semitism?” He insisted that he didn’t, and represented himself as the cruelly wronged victim of “unsubstantiated attacks and conspiracy theories about Islam, Muslims and Muslim organizations.”
It was, then, not the best of weeks for the Swedish left and its Muslim comrades. Still, I strongly suspect, given the way these things seem to work out in Europe nowadays, that Mustafa need not worry overmuch about his political future. Yes, the Social Democrats had to cut him loose this time around because the fire got too hot. But things will cool down. The media will move on. And after they do, one way or another, Mustafa will almost certainly resume his climb up the ladder, one way or another. And even if it doesn’t work out between him and the Social Democrats, there are plenty of other highly placed Swedish Muslims who hold precisely the same beliefs and opinions that he does and whom that party’s leaders, it can be certain, are fully prepared to anoint in his place.
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