Diagnosing a deadly disorder.
Will last Friday's terror attack in Stockholm change Swedish attitudes toward Islam? Not likely. Pretty much all of Europe has spent the last few decades undergoing (steady) Islamization, but the invasion has progressed so much further in Sweden than in almost every other country on the continent – and has occasioned so much less frank reportage, commentary, and criticism, that brave souls in Sweden's Scandinavian neighbors, Denmark and Norway – routinely make disparaging reference to “Swedish conditions.” What this term refers to is not only the drastic social and economic changes currently underway in the country that once proudly called itself Folkhemmet, “the people's home,” but the mentality – a mentality not unique to Sweden, but certainly more fully developed there, in the government, media, academy, police, and the public at large, than anywhere else in Europe – that has made this dread transformation possible.
A few recent news items provide illustrative examples of what it means to be living under “Swedish conditions”:
- On March 10, it was reported that despite longtime plans, there would not be a new police station in Rinkeby, a notoriously unsafe immigrant neighborhood in Stockholm. Not a single construction firm had put in a bid for the project. Why? Because, as several police officers told SVT News, “it's much too dangerous to build a police station in the area.”
- On March 12, Sweden's Minister for Culture and Democracy, Alice Bah Kuhnke, said in a TV interview that the 150-odd jihadists who have returned to Sweden after fighting for ISIS should not be investigated, let alone prosecuted, but should instead be welcomed back and encouraged to integrate – by which she seemed to mean offering various welfare incentives and assorted freebies. (Such enticements, incidentally, would be perfectly in line with Swedish practice.)
- On April 5, after Sweden's TV4 reported that a Muslim school in Vällingby was forcing girls to sit in the back of the school bus, Victoria Kawesa, head of a party called Feminist Initiative, blamed it not on Islam but on the “global patriarchy.”
But no recent event or telecast provided a more illuminating picture of “Swedish conditions” than the April 3 episode of Horisont, a 60 Minutes-type series on Danish TV. (The fact that Danish TV airs such programs while Swedish TV does not is itself, of course, a telling reflection of “Swedish conditions.”)
The central figure on the Horisont episode was Eva Ek Törnberg, an ethnic Swede who not only lives in Seved, an immigrant-heavy district of Malmö, but is known as the “Queen of Seved” because of her decades-long efforts to cozy up to her Muslim neighbors and help them become full members of Swedish society.
On Horisont, however, she admits that her attitudes have changed over time. She used to call herself a “citizen of the world” and to champion open borders – now she looks around and finds herself thinking: “What has happened to my little Sweden?” She once thought it was “nonsense” to expect newcomers to learn Swedish – now she feels otherwise. Yes, she still believes in letting these people in by the truckload – but she no longer warms as she once did to the idea of a “multicultural society.” She perseveres in her attempt to bring Muslims into the Swedish fold – but she's increasingly frustrated and confused by her lack of success. As she puts it, she's curious about these people's lives – why are they so indifferent to hers?
Yet she doesn't want to complain too much – because, as she puts it, “one doesn't want to be linked to the Sweden Democrats,” those universally anathematized residents of “the people's home” who actually dare to criticize Islam out loud and to support immigration controls. (And who, by the way, are on the verge of becoming the country's largest party.) For all her disillusionment, moreover, Eva is still capable of getting teary-eyed about the utopian prospect of ethnic Swedes and Muslim immigrants working together to find a solution to their problems. For her, psychologically, the idea that Islam is the problem is plainly a bridge too far.
Cutting from Malmö to Stockholm, Horisont introduces us to another woman. Zeliha Delgi, originally from Turkey and apparently single, is a self-described feminist who came to Sweden decades ago precisely because she wanted to live in a country that offered completely equal rights for women. At first, Zeliha says, Sweden was “the perfect land for me.” But then Rinkeby, where she lived, began to fall under the control of the Muslim “moral police.” The real cops – the Swedish cops – backed off, allowing the “moral police” to do their nasty work with increasing arrogance and authority. Patrolling the streets, these theological gendarmes would see Zeliha out at a café, sipping coffee – a woman, alone – and order her to go home. There was nothing she could do but obey. And as time went by, the situation just got worse and worse. And the Swedish authorities were beyond worthless, washing their hands of the whole business – lest, of course, they be perceived as Islamophobic. Eventually Zeliha moved to a non-Muslim part of Stockholm, where she can dress as she wants and go where she wants without anybody giving her grief or ordering her around. She has – and this was the word she used – freedom.
For now, anyway.
Horisont didn't tell us what to think about what it was showing us. But the point was clear. Naive ethnic Swedes like Eva, who put out the welcome mat for those despicable “moral police” and their ideological ilk, have ruined more and more parts of Sweden for people like Zeliha, who came to Sweden in search of individual liberty, sexual equality, human rights, and the rule of law. As one wise blogger put it, Eva – who is “honest, provincial, and naive” – is the very personification of today's Sweden. She hasn't “thought deeply about anything” – and, as a result, her country has been made a “hostage to her dreams.” One might add that while Eva sees very clearly where her dreams have led, she still can't fully let go of them. Terrified as she is of being mistaken for a (gasp) Sweden Democrat, she's doubtless even more appalled by the idea of Donald Trump – for while Trump is, in fact, exactly the kind of leader Sweden needs if it hopes to step back from the brink of disaster, most Swedes (who, on the whole, continue to be more worried about being considered racists than about losing their country to Islam) reject Trump outright. A March poll found him to be more unpopular in Sweden than any politician ever, from any country, with 80 percent of Swedes giving him a thumbs-down and only 10 percent – those Sweden Democrat types, you know – liking him. (Here's a taste of “Swedish conditions” for you: when Trump announced his temporary ban on immigration from certain Muslim countries, Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallström retaliated by banning Israelis from entering Sweden.)
So it goes. On March 9, Jerzy Sarnecki, a criminology professor at Stockholm University, said that the precipitous rise in violence among Muslim gangs in Swedish cities has nothing – nothing, mind you! – to do with Islam or immigration: no, it's all caused by social ills that are, in turn, the fault of Swedish society at large. Another criminology professor, Leif G. W. Persson, blamed gang violence on the police.
The only places in Sweden where you can find out what's really going on are online – a handful of alternative news and commentary websites, plus Facebook and other social media, where Swedes share with one another details and (yes) graphic images that the mainstream media systematically cover up. On Sunday, the editor-in-chief of Expressen, Thomas Mattsson, devoted his column to what he apparently thought was the important takeaway from last Friday's terrorist act: namely, the threat to Swedish society represented by those rogue online spaces. “The criticism that can – and should! – he formulated right now,” he wrote, “is about social media.” He added that “the reputable, constitutionally protected Swedish media,” which are “responsible” and respectful of “professional ethics,” and the independent online media – media whose offense, in his eyes, is obviously that they pull back the curtain on “Swedish conditions” – “could not be greater.”
A March 11 editorial in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten succinctly spelled out the whole problem with “Swedish conditions”: what should “most worry Sweden's neighbors,” the paper's editors wrote, is the Swedes' “unwillingness to openly and honestly discuss the government-approved multicultural idyll....In the long run, the mendacity that characterizes the Swedish debate cannot be maintained. The discrepancy between the official, idealized version of Sweden, 'the people's home,' and the brutal reality that everyone can see has simply become too great.”