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Dr. Magnus Ranstorp, Maajid Nawaz and Nalin Pekgul. Photo: Säkerhetspolitiskt sommartorg

Islamist radicalization – a Swedish problem denied

Sweden | 2009-07-03 | 27 comments



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Political Week in Visby. The cause and effects of Islamist radicalisation, specifically in Swedish suburbs, as for example Tensta in Stockholm and Rosengård in Malmö, was the main subject of a panel discussion arranged by the Swedish National Defence Collage during the Political Week.

The three participants in the panel were Maajid Nawaz, with a history in radical Islamist groups, but now is Director of Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism think tank, and Dr. Magnus Ranstorp from the Swedish National Defence College, who earlier this year published a much noticed report about radical Islamism in Rosengård, and finally Nalin Pekgul, President of the Social Democrats Women’s organization.

The discussion to a large degree dealt with the strong reactions that Dr. Ranstorp’s report received in the Swedish public debate. Many of Sweden’s islamologist questioned the report and many scholars were critical about the way the study had been carried out.

“I am very sad with the debate following the publication of the report. There were to much focus on the form and not the content”, Magnus Ranstorp said.

He described how he wrote the report, commissioned by the Government and the Ministry of Integration, having been living abroad for a long time and knowing nothing about the situation in Rosengård, writing from a blank table and without preconceptions.

The report was simply what officials and local authorities working in Rosengård were saying. They saw a growing radicalization among the youths living in a social problematic suburb, with crowded housing, extremely high unemployment and many young people exposed to a cultural clash, resulting in shattered identities.

Nalin Pekgul confirmed that this was in line also with her own experience from Tensta, a suburb in Stockholm. Some people of the community acts like ‘thought police’, trying to control the behavior of other residents. Especially women and young girls are exposed and it is not uncommon that young girls are forced to marry with men they do not know.

“Some said in the interviews that they had lived a freer life in their home country”, Magnus Ranstorp said, and Nalin Pekgul once again agreed.

“I was able to wear shorter dresses in Kurdistan than I can do in Tensta. Men from the garage mosques harass you and say bad things about me to my children”, Pekgul said.

A couple of years ago she received much media coverage when she publicly said she wanted to move away from Tensta, when her children told her that other people said they were not Muslim, since she didn’t carry a veil. She however never moved away since she got so much positive response from others living in Tensta.

Maajid Nawaz told about his background as a radical Islamist from the age of 16. How he quickly climbed in the ranks and started exporting the organisation to other countries, for example Pakistan, Denmark and Egypt. It was first when he served a five years prison sentence in Egypt that he started to question his ideological beliefs. Today he is totally devoted to fight against radical Islamism and other forms of political extremism.

Nawaz described Islamists as a tiny minority among Muslims and stressed that Islamism is not the same thing as Islam.

“We where chased away from the mosques when we were trying to recruit”, Nawaz said.

He thinks it is important to make a difference between religious extremist and the political extremism of Islamists. One could be a very orthodox and conservative Muslim, without wanting to kill people who do not share the same beliefs, and one could be a radical Islamist without being especially pious or having much knowledge about what the Koran says.

He took himself as an example, when he was an active Islamist, no one could for example tell that he was an Islamist by how he was dressed. An many of the Islamist in Europe is often very well educated.

“Islamism is a European and modern ideology that is more about extremism and fascism than devotion to religion”, Nawaz explained and took as an example how the group he was involved in started in Britain and exported itself to traditional Muslim countries as Pakistan, Malaysia and Egypt.

All in the panel agreed that there was something true about that.

“People think it comes from abroad, it is the other way around. People in Sweden can’t understand that it is easier for Islamist to recruit in segregated areas in out cities than in Muslim countries”, Nalin Pekgul said.

“Some of the Islamist I have meet in Great Britain have been more frightening than those I have encountered in the Middle East”, Magnus Ranstorp said.

Nawaz identifies three main causes for growth of Islamic radicalisation. Grievance, i.e. real and imaginary inequity and injustice that causes resentment for Muslim people living in western societies, that there exists a group structure and the Islamist ideology. How the media report on Muslims and the conflicts in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq have also played a big role.

Many young Muslims living in the west struggle with their identity since the Islamist ideology says it is a question about “us and them”, the war on terrorism is described as the war on Islam. The bad social situation, with high unemployment and other problems, also plays a major part.

The panel also discussed the more external problem on how governments and authorities treat Muslim members of their societies.

“Governments have adopted the Islamist frame. For example when they treat certain social problems as ‘Muslim’ problems and then interact with imams in order to solve them. But there is no Muslim collective, no Muslim political block. They should treat us like ordinary citizens”, Nawaz said.

He also praised how the U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in his recent speech in Cairo that he addressed to Muslims, not as a counterpart to the west and not as a single political block. Instead he talked about “Muslims around the world” and “Muslim peoples”, stressing the plurality and non-collective aspects.

A problem denied

Nalin Pekgul said that the biggest problem in Sweden, in relation to Islamist radicalisation, is that it is so denied. There is almost a taboo against talking about it, and she mentioned how questioned she herself was when she spoke out about the situation in Tensta. She saw a parallel to how the report of Dr. Ranstorp was received in the public debate.

“It is not anti-Islamic to criticise Islamism”, Nawaz pointed out.

A member of the audience asked Magnus Ranstorp how he reacted when the Director-general of the Security Service in an interview on public radio said that the problems in, for example Rosengård, are “not especially bad”.

“I was very surprised. He does not seem to receive the signals from his subordinated. Neither from the regular police”, Ranstorp said.

He however pointed out that the Security Service handles the problems very well, but that the issue is larger, something the whole society must take seriously.

“I think we are blessed so far for having rather moderate Muslims in Sweden”, he said, describing how different extremist are able to fuel each other. He pointed to the situation in Denmark where the public discussion is more polarised.

“It’s only a mater of time before there is a terrorist attack in Denmark”, Ranstorp said.

The other panellist agreed that the problem must be handled with care, and that a polarised discussion atmosphere only makes things worse.

Despite discussing such a serious threat as Islamist radicalisation and concluding that the issue needs more attention the panel discussion nevertheless ended in a positive tone.

Nalin Pekgul said that she now saw very positive signs in Tensta, where residents have started to assembly at intra-Muslim seminars, with talks between different factions and where moderate Muslims can strengthen their voice in the community.

Maajid Nawaz talked about “an awakening”, where there now is a movement against Islamism among the Muslim majority. And Magnus Ranstorp ended with saying that “the moderate forces are winning”.

Readers' comments

2009-10-19 08:15 Bent wrote:
Islam is the religion that teaches hatred and violence and intolerance, Since September 11, 2001, there have been over 14,205 terrorist attacks, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and a lot more injuries, throughout the world. The perpetrators of these attacks were not monsters; they were Muslims. Islamic terrorism is a new phenomenon; Islam owes its success to terrorism. The founder of Islam boasted, "I have been made victorious with terror". Muslim jihadis a
2009-10-09 02:24 Alon wrote:
policefan:You are a Muslim,right?
2009-10-08 17:23 kaj wrote:
Policefan: what kind of naive rubbish is that: We are not talking about ancient tribes, not the Wisigothes, or Teutons Celts etc. We are talking about a modern day plague which has to be solved before it buries us all. It threatens our personal security, way of life and values. Grow up man!
2009-10-07 13:48 policefan wrote:
"It would just be easier to not have Muslim immigrants" Swedes are also immigrants in Europe and have common genetic roots with the Eastern nationalities. Before Swedes (at that time Eastern tribes) came to Europe it had been populated for thousands of years. Turn to history, genetics, epigraphy, and archeology before making comments like that.
2009-10-07 07:59 Knud wrote:
The sobered-up “multiculturalist” not only sums up the state of affairs, but has at last actually come to the conclusion that tolerance does not mean that we should ignore their own social values: “Maybe we should ask ourselves how it is that we have accepted that principles like artistic freedom and equal rights for men and women do not apply to everyone in this country. Why do we not dare to stand up for what is in fact essential: respect for the laws and values of the country we live?”
2009-10-06 18:58 Kirsten wrote:
Not only in Sweden. Watch what is happening in Britain: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=RKgK-0HwN30
2009-10-05 11:33 Bent wrote:
Vidéo The End of Europe - Mark Steyn (1 of 5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlkEYoKC-kA
2009-10-04 20:25 Rolf wrote:
It is very difficult to be an optimist in the face of the growing Islamization of Europe. All the tides are against us. On all fronts we are losing. Demographically the momentum is with Islam. Muslim immigration is even a source of pride within ruling liberal parties. Academia, the arts, the media, trade unions, the churches, the business world, the entire political establishment have all converted to the suicidal theory of multiculturalism.
2009-10-03 06:35 Gert wrote:
If any culture needs to be preserved, it is the Western, Helleno-Christian culture. It is this culture that is facing extinction….We owe our freedom and modern civilization to Western culture. It is this culture that is now under attack and needs protection.
2009-09-26 22:24 Alon wrote:
I think that the Swedish and the Europeans should understand that the Muslims are the same everywhere.They are coming to Europe to escape from those Islam rules which were bad to them and try to apply those rules eventually in the new country that let them to come.Sweden is blinded by their hate to Jews and therefore it let the Muslims to immigrate.This would hit you like a Bumerang as those immigrants would destroy your country.Very soon you would be the Islamic Republic.Wake Up!
2009-09-26 11:06 Torsten wrote:
liberty is the most precious of gifts. My generation never had to fight for this freedom, it was offered to us on a silver platter, by people who fought for it with their lives. All throughout Europe American cemeteries remind us of the young boys who never made it home, and whose memory we cherish. My generation does not own this freedom; we are merely its custodians. We can only hand over this hard won liberty to Europe ´s children in the same state in which it was offered to us.
2009-09-26 11:04 Stefan wrote:
you know why Winston Churchill called Islam ´the most retrograde force in the world´, and why he compared Mein Kampf to the Quran. The public has wholeheartedly accepted the Palestinian narrative, and sees Israel as the aggressor. I have lived in this country and visited it dozens of times. I support Israel . First, because it is the Jewish homeland after two thousand years of exile up to and including Auschwitz, second because it is a democracy.
2009-09-20 08:47 Goran wrote:
In most Islamic countries, gay men and women are ostracized, persecuted and in some cases even murdered. Repressive regimes are often fanning the flames of hatred in a bid to outdo Islamists when it comes to spreading "moral panic."
2009-09-17 08:01 Gertrude wrote:
In Algeria, they´ve decided that the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet was on to something. The Algerians are now promoting a narrative in which Algerian children are kidnapped, dragged across the border into Morocco and then sold to Israelis or American Jews who harvest their organs. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1251804571092&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull
2009-09-14 11:59 Harold wrote:
After Sept. 11, everyone in America knows full well the power and persistance of these militant radical groups... Is is a certainty that the terrorists, already living among us in Europe too, will continue to pursue their destructive agenda. Militant Islam is a Utopian ideology, initiated in the 20th century, that attracts only a portion of Muslims, (10 to 15 percent) seeks to gain control of governments, and is nakedly aggressive toward all those who stand in it´ way, no matter what their faith
2009-09-14 02:56 Dave wrote:
There is no way the Jihadi Neanderthals can exist with western democracy. Unfortunately the liberals will realize it when it is too late.
2009-09-11 09:05 Vestergaard wrote:
Liberals like to believe that harmony is humanity’s natural condition. Perhaps that’s why Europe didn’t get involved in the Balkans, and likewise Afghanistan; they feel the world will get “harmonized” if they stay home and not risk the chance of getting hurt…or involved. The “harmony crowd” who thinks we can live in harmony with Muslims who are divinely taught to kill us, will find-out just how much harmony Iran can produce once they achieve the nuclear bomb
2009-07-25 14:03 K.Tanous,Researcher OF IHL HR, Conflicts wrote:
according to my research on the human rights and the conflicts in the Middle east ( Islamic sacred conflict), so I saw that the matter need more searching because the situation is serious and dangerous, the subject is non-normal and in high level
2009-07-06 23:55 UlfT wrote:
Herr Schadenfreude, ´Islamophobia´ is the consequence of Muslim hate of others, and the result of the multiple crimes carried out by Islamics all around the world, which were broadly justified by many Muslims and their media. These very Muslims call their religion ´peaceful´, while in its name Islamics performs mutilations, stoning, torture, abuse and indiscriminate murder. Stop bushiting us, please. Take a look at the reality around us.
2009-07-06 19:56 UlfT wrote:
If someone is radical Muslim, can anybody explain me what is he/she doing in Sweden? It´s important to keep the moderate political position that characterizes Sweden.
2009-07-06 01:41 indian wrote:
first terror attack in sweden before danmark. i also asian non white but i know clearly how muslims make problems to non muslims.
2009-07-05 18:52 Oscar Johansson. wrote:
Dr. Magnus Ranstorp is wrong. I bet you that Sweden will be hit by a terror-attack before Denmark.
2009-07-05 00:47 RashadZAli wrote:
Mr. Nawaz should have disclosed that his "think" tank is actively aided and abetted by the British govt. to the tune of 1 Million British pounds: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5549138.ece and that his co-director (ED Husain) is on record as having said: 1. having supported the Iraq war but "not the aftermath or handling of it." 2. Poured cold water on the idea that western policy in the Muslim world makes terror attacks in Britain and Europe more likely.
2009-07-04 22:42 svend wrote:
Better start planning on how you are going to resettle them back in muslim lands.
2009-07-04 13:25 Dr Albert Schadenfreude wrote:
Thinking that Muslim´s hate anyone who is not a Muslim is buying into the Bush theory of Islam as a threat. The reality being that Western Armies are at liberty to attack any Muslim country at will. Not sure why Christina should feel so threatened by Muslim immigrants. If you are going to attack their countries, you will displace people. All conflicts create refugees. If you´re responsible for the conflict, you are responsible for the displaced, hence Muslim immigrants!
2009-07-04 11:54 Dani wrote:
Muslims will be the problem of the future! They don´t want integrate themselves! They don´t want learn swedish! They have no respect for women!
2009-07-03 21:08 Christina wrote:
It would just be easier to not have Muslim immigrants. What other group of immigrants have brought so many problems, threats and drain on resources?


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