|Siavosh Derakhti, a Muslim and the child of refugees of the Iran-Iraq war, has |
become a champion in the fight against anti-Semitism in Malmö, Sweden.
He gets hate mail from the far-right and death threats from fellow Muslims.
The 23-year-old Muslim is the child of Iranian parents, refugees of the Iran-Iraq war. He has become a champion in the fight against anti-Semitism in Malmö, a town a little smaller than Halifax, UK, perched on the southern tip of Sweden.
Muslim immigrants, most with roots in the Middle East, make up nearly a third of Malmö's population.
Cultural tension in the town has been building for years, much of it directed against the new immigrants, but anti-Semitism has also been rising. The Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles issued a travel advisory to Jews in 2010 – don't go to Malmö. It reissued the warning last year.
Derakhti gets hate mail from the far-right and death threats from fellow Muslims. ...Because Islam is a religion of peace.
"When we have let the world into our town, we have the political controversy you have in the Middle East," says Anders Ekelm, vicar of the Church of Sweden in Malmö. "Among those people you will find anti-Semitism. We have to be honest about it."
Sweden has a generous immigration policy – last year the country of 9 million took in 85,000 refugees. According to an OECD study, that is more than twice as many immigrants per capita as any other member country. Canada, in comparison, takes a twentieth as many refugees proportionately. Thank you, Stephen Harper!
|Masked protesters engage in a confrontation with police in Malmö, Sweden. |
In recent years, protests for and against Muslim immigrants have been frequent
and sometimes violent. (Drago Prvulovic/Associated Press)
Engineer Peter Fribourg and his wife Marie, a lawyer, are what are now called 'ethnic Swedes.' "It's a tough matter, you have different cultures colliding. We are not succeeding in the way we would like."
Marie agrees, adding that Malmö meant well but was not properly prepared to help the huge influx of immigrants settle. "I was much more liberal and welcoming before … (but) there have been so many in the last few years we do not know how to deal with them.
They will not assimilate."
There have been 137 anti-Semitic incidents reported to authorities in Malmö the past two years.
The Rabbi of the Malmö synagogue, Shneur Kesselman, says he has been spat upon and cursed. Most recently, a bottle thrown from a passing car narrowly missed his head, he says.
|The Rabbi of the Malmö synagogue says he has been spat upon, cursed, and was |
nearly hit recently by a bottle thrown from a passing car. (Karin Wells/CBC)
"Hatred of Muslims, as bad as it is — and it's terrible — is not challenging the Muslim minority, their safety," Kesselman says.
"Anti-Semitism here in Malmö today is threatening the existence of a minority."
In February, a Palestinian Dane shot and killed two people in Copenhagen, including a guard at a synagogue. Copenhagen is a 20-minute train ride from Malmö. Police armed with automatic weapons were immediately stationed outside the community centre in Malmö.
"To be honest," says Sofia Lunderquist, administrative director of Malmö's Jewish community centre, "we were in a way happy, because finally the normal Swedes, the Swedish police and Swedish government understood that we're not fantasizing. They have woken up now." We can always hope! But have they really woken up or have they rolled over and gone back to sleep?
Even so, a few months ago, Lunderquist's 19-year-old son Jonathan Vaknine — the only Jew in a school of 1,600 — was swarmed in the hallway, sworn at and pushed around by young men asking 'Are you Jewish?'
Harassment of young Jews in Malmö is not unusual, but the difference is that Vaknine reported it to the police and gave them the name of one of the attackers. It was three months before the police called Vaknine for a statement, and the named youth was not interviewed.
Siavosh Derakhti was part of that documentary, and "it lit a fire in me," Vaknine says. He contacted Derakhti, who agreed to come to the boy's school to speak.
Derakhti has been awarded Sweden's first Raoul Wallenberg medal, named after the renegade Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews in World War II. He is a national figure, but the principal of Vaknine's school turned him down.
The school authorities did emphasize their concern for Vaknine's safety, but the student says he told them, "Safe is not enough. That is not the issue. If I hide who I am and hide my identity, of course no one will know I'm a Jew and they will not do anything. But if I am going with kippa, with things that show that I'm a Jew, I'm not sure I would be safe."
Residents say public discussion of immigration-related issues is difficult.
"There is a political correctness in Sweden," Fribourg says. "You don't discuss your problems, you push them under the carpet."
"And if you do talk about them, you are immediately called a racist," adds Lunderquist. "That's a very Swedish response, afraid of tackling problems. It's better to pretend the problem does not exist."
|Jonathan Vaknine and his mother Sophia Lunderquist of Malmö, Sweden, |
have first-hand experience with anti-Semitism in their local community.
"Sweden is a country where we always try to reach consensus," says Lena Posner-Körösi, head of the Official Council of Jewish communities in Sweden. "You don't want anyone to be angry at you."
The effect, she maintains, is that nothing happens.
"The growth of the populistic parties all over Europe is a result of not dealing with the problems and not helping to integrate the newcomers to Europe."
A recent poll by Ipsos says the majority of Swedes want to keep the doors open to refugees, and Sweden plans to take in 100,000 this year. But at the same time, there is a growing realization that with immigration must come integration.
While the government remains slow to act, religious leaders and the Chamber of Commerce are now talking social cohesion.
For the first time there are town halls and surveys asking people about changes needed in Malmö. NGOs are moving in to immigrant districts with urban renewal projects.
"Yes, we should open up to everyone who needs to come here," says Posner-Körösi. "My father was one of 500 children allowed to come to Sweden from Berlin in 1939. My father survived because they at least let him and a few others in. We have to help each other. The problem is not letting people in, the problem is what do you do with those who are here."
She says the experiences of those in the Jewish community could ultimately contribute to helping Sweden find the answers to its immigration challenges.
"Jews have been in Europe for 2,000 years. We are integrated without being assimilated. We have so much to teach about minority identity — we have mutual interest to do something positive for future."
What a romantic vision she has! As if Muslims are willing to learn anything from Jews. It's just so Swedish of her!
With all this talk of antisemitism and immigration, the article completely ignores the spectacular increase in violent sex crimes in Europe, especially Norway and Sweden, directly related to immigration:
From a previous post:
Half of all rapes in Norway are committed by Muslims, and every single violent rape in Oslo for the past 5 years was committed by someone of non-western heritage, the majority of whom are Muslim.
Muslims make up only 1.5% of the population in Norway.
In Sweden, the incidence of rape has sky-rocketed in the last 15-20 years since the country opened its borders to immigration. In the first decade of the 21st century, foreign-born people were between 2 and 20 times more likely to commit rape than ethnic Swedes. In the 1990s it was only 2:8 times, what will it be in the 2010s, maybe 2:50 times.
Sweden has become the country with the second highest rate of rape per capita in the world. Only tiny Lesotho, in south Africa has a higher rate.