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Why Sweden?

Reader's Voice | 2010-12-18 | 23 comments
Abdul-Majeed Azad writes about his views of last Saturday´s suicide bombing in Stockholm. Mr Azad is a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.


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The news of suicide bombing on Saturday has shocked everyone. I was boarding the train at the Central station for returning to Göteborg after attending the Nobel Prize Award ceremony previous night in Stockholm, when this happened. I got a frantic call from my wife in the US, who had just then seen the news on Yahoo and had freaked out, because she knew I was in Stockholm at that time. It all appears so surreal and one question that everybody is asking is: why Sweden?

A few years ago, in his broadcast timed to coincide with the US Presidential election in 2004, Osama bin Laden had laconically remarked, “If it was freedom they were against, al-Qaeda would have attacked Sweden.”

Ironically, on Saturday afternoon Sweden eventually became the victim of one of the ideologues of Bin Laden’s vengeful militancy. Acting alone, Taimour Abdulwahab –an Iraqi immigrant and naturalized Swede - struck Stockholm’s idyllic innocence, blowing up his car and himself. Even though there were no other casualties in terms of human life, one shudders to even imagine that the eve of his 29th birthday eerily coincided with his death. Eighteen years is a long time to nurse grudge and cultivate perpetual hatred for a place and people that welcomed you with open arms. A new branch of psychiatry needs to be opened and explored to understand the mindset of such dark personalities.

This was a lone act, thankfully without much damage. Had it been successful, it would have caused carnage of unimagined proportions during the festive season. It was no less barbaric though, as it succeeded in painting Islam once again as a monster religion hell-bent on causing destruction, particularly in the West. As the pages from the life of Taimour in Tranås (Sweden) and Luton (England) are unfolding, it is unfathomable that a married man with three children could be driven to such level of blind fanaticism.

Nine years ago on a crisp, beautiful, soft and sunny autumn morning, the innocence of humanity we all knew and took for granted, was struck on September 11, when a horrendous tragedy was perpetrated in the name of Islam on the American soil. Nine years later, the wounds are still bleeding, the scars are still fresh and the anger is still seething. Nine years ago, we thought American people and institutions were the sole victims of that attack. Nine years later, we know Islam also was the target. That day, we surmised that planes were hijacked, buildings were rammed into and innocent people were killed. Today we know, a storied faith was molested and its 1.6 billion followers became pariahs and ostracized for as long as it takes for the fog of ignorance and disbelief to lift.

For me as a Muslim, the very fabric of the faith which taught me the sanctity of life and what constitutes its decorum was torn on that day. Life is holy in all religions; it takes a person of ignoble misunderstanding and instability to advocate or perform violence against it. The morality and integrity of a people as a whole are vital in dealing with all people. Qur’an exhorted Muhammad to tell Muslims: "Come, I will rehearse what God has really prohibited you from: take not life, which God has made sacred, except by the way of justice and law; thus does He command you that you may learn wisdom" (4:151). Islam categorically forbids Muslims from taking life in a cowardly and unjust way - their own or those of others. The precepts of my religion, my way of life uphold this.

But when events like that of December 11 in Stockholm occur, no explanation, no apology would do. Yet, while I learned with total disbelief the swift unfolding of this ruthless act, I was longing for signs of condemnation from the Muslim community in an around Stockholm and beyond. Brief written statement from the imam of the Södermalm mosque is not enough. By now, Muslims should be on the streets shrieking strongest condemnation at the top of their lungs for this act by one of their own.

The silence of Muslims in Swedish community would send wrong message, making their neighbors angry, co-workers suspicious, and, acquaintances and friends, disillusioned. Saturday’s event proves that some sections of Muslim community, no matter how small, are on the path of destruction - self and otherwise, despite the vehement denial by their community elders.

Al-Qaeda might have been weakened collectively, but apparently it has been slowly but steadily succeeding in poisoning the minds of the Muslim youth – one at a time. This supply chain must be cut at the very central artery. No material and technical sophistication or eavesdropping, no coalition of the willing, no unmanned drones and no cells at Guantanamo will be able to destroy or deter the new crop of zealous doctrinaires. Why? Because, Muslim youths are being infected with twisted thoughts and are being fed distorted version of their faith. There is no benignity about this cancer. Physician, heal thyself! Muslims alone would have to muster the courage to stand up and destroy it.

It is well-agreed that what Al-Qaeda stands for and what it strives to achieve is a response, primarily to the excesses and somewhat double standards of Western foreign policy in relation to the ‘world of Muslims’ – not necessarily the ‘world of Islam’.

During the past 3 months of my stay in Sweden, I have found Swedes to be open, gentle, supportive, helpful, and least bothered about or biased towards others’ belief system. It is also by far, the most tolerant country in Europe towards Muslims. Her ready acceptance of large contingents of immigrants from predominantly Muslim lands is a testimony of that.

Likewise, majority of Muslims are peace-loving law-abiding citizens, caring, respectful and compassionate neighbors all across the globe. My plea to the Swedish people and its leaders is that their future approach towards Muslims in Sweden, should not be dictated by this and other such sporadic acts of violence. Al-Qaeda and its cohorts may be inspired by the foggy misinterpretation of Islam by its leaders, but it is not a religious organization. In fact, what it has done, is doing and plans to do in future is everything Islam abhors and stands against. To defeat this demon, all Swedes – Muslims included - must come together. They must resolve to understand the dynamics of its evil fangs and stand against its outlook of the world affair.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the American-Muslims have forged strong alliance with the US officials in being vigilant and safeguarding our communities, neighbors and the homeland. It is not a choice: it is incumbent upon us as the adherents of Islamic faith. In the light of what happened on Saturday in Stockholm, no less is expected of Muslims who call Sweden home. As a country that takes ‘no side in conflicts’ Sweden could be a catalyst to building bridges of understanding, thus defeating the radicalization within its borders as well as in Europe at large.

Abdul-Majeed Azad

Readers' comments

2010-12-31 19:55 Jim wrote:
Rusty, turn on the news. Clearly it´s Islam. Can we all try to be brave here & honest with ourselves. Ignoring the elephant in the room won´t make it go away. Abdul, tell me what is the price of apostasy in Islam? Answer: They are to be put to murdered. This is stated in the Qur´an and the Hadith. And furthermore by the actions & and words of your holy prophet Muhammad
2010-12-22 04:31 Jacobsen wrote:
Indeed, the takeover of fundamentalist Islam is a certain recipe for the Muslim nation’s downfall from Iraqn to Sudan and Pakistan fro Irak To morroco
2010-12-22 04:22 Leonard wrote:
Concerns over possible attacks are high across Europe in the wake of a suicide bombing by an Iraqi-born Swede in Stockholm last week, reports of Mumbai-style attacks planned against Germany, and terrorism arrests in Britain, France and Spain. This fall, American officials warned of terrorist threats against European targets.
2010-12-21 17:33 Karen wrote:
America is many things, but "Islamophobic´´ plainly isn´t one of them. As Time itself acknowledged: "Polls have shown that most Muslims feel safer and freer in the US than anywhere else in the Western world.´´ That sentiment is powerfully buttressed by the FBI´s newly released statistics on hate crimes in the United States.
2010-12-21 02:05 Jinan Safwat wrote:
It´s amazing this peaceful Muslim doesn´t understand what motivates Muslims to terrorize the West. When he writes, "It is well-agreed that what Al-Qaeda ... strives to achieve is a response ... to the excesses and somewhat double standards of Western foreign policy", he legitimizes their motivations, if not their actions. If the US were to abandon Israel and scale-back its involvement in the Muslim world--short of converting to AQ-Islam, it wouldn´t make one iota of difference.
2010-12-20 15:53 Rusty wrote:
Robert, interesting article but the Hindu threat is only against India in the article. Agreed that many terrorists in Europe may be nationalists, but in primarily Muslim countries it seems most of the terror attacks are Muslims killing Muslims...
2010-12-20 10:47 Lawrence wrote:
How about respecting the ´rights of everyone´ in Sweden, including the rights of Jews and the rights of those who are foolish enough to arrive in Sweden hoping to escape persecution? Ought that not to be the first concern of the Swedish foreign minister?
2010-12-20 10:44 Lawrence wrote:
Sweden returns five asylum-seeking Iraqi Christians: How low can one government go? Sweden is trying to show us. They have decided to return five asylum-seeking Iraqi Christians to Iraq because there is ´relative peace´ in that country. This, about a month after a massacre in an Iraqi Christian church.
2010-12-19 19:38 Steve wrote:
I liked this article, having worked in Iraq for the last 3 1/2 years I may have a different perspective than others. While the suicide bomber was Iraqi, he doesn´t represent them. I´ve been in hostile situations many times, but they were insurgents. The Iraqis I´ve known were good, friendly, people who I liked. When I´ve gone through Baghdad International airport, everyone was decent. My point is this: Don´t equate terrorists with Islam or every other Muslim, most people are just like you.
2010-12-19 10:18 21st centurian wrote:
to compare nationalism/civil conflict/civil war with religious war is absurd. Everyone who justifies Muslim warriors against the West by citing periods of internal conflict among others (jews in Israel, Hindues in India, White supremecists in USA, Black Panthers in USA, etc) are completely out of touch with reality. Islam is incompatible with modernity!
2010-12-18 17:52 Edit wrote:
Normally it would be logical that in the age of globalization and high technological development our mindset is improving as well, and people forget about killing each other in the name of religion or anything. Still, it seems so that we can not coexist. Now I am really anxious about this world since Swedes are really peaceful and nice people, and they are hurt as well. It would be so simple: one should stay away from a country, if one can not accept the culture there...
2010-12-18 17:48 freda wrote:
@rusty Bro,the problem is the extremists have the attention of the media. The peace-loving Muslims are standing up to it, but without the support of the media their voices often go unheard. MOST Muslims want peace.So its important for you to take Abdul´s message and pass it on.Put it on ur Facebook or email it to ur friends.Help us be heard.No, its not that there are more Muslim terrorists; its that they are getting all the media coverage right now.
2010-12-18 17:31 Robert wrote:
Mo, to ban all Muslim immigration on the base ot the fact that extremists exist would be as stupid as banning Jewish immigration in the late 1940s becasue Stern and other Jewish organisations used terror in order to get a Jewish state. You have to see the individual. Personally I don´t like Islam, Judaism or Christianity because I don´t like religion but I know sevral nice Muslims, Jewish persons and Christians.
2010-12-18 17:24 Ben wrote:
Mo: You cannot dismiss these as ´lunatic writings´ because these ´lunatic writings´ form the basis of alot of actions that affect you and I.
2010-12-18 17:22 Ben wrote:
I didnt talk about Christians or the bible. I have read both the Quran and the Bible (I am neither Christian nor Moslem/Muslim). And it is very clear that the Old Testament of the Bible is never as explicit in terms of violence, threats and repeated calls to ´arms´, killing, harsh laws etc than the Quran. It is precisely because the Quran contains these lines/verses(ayats and surahs) calling for blood and killing that many radicals have found it easy to use the Quran to commit mass murder.
2010-12-18 16:43 Mo wrote:
Judge them by their actions, the things they do today all over the world. Don´t waste time comparing the ancient lunatic writings of various fairytales known as religions. On this basis, the west should bar all Muslim immigration to protect the native populations of our various countries. We should no more allow Muslims to immigrate than we would have allowed professed Nazis to immigrate 70 years ago.
2010-12-18 16:36 George wrote:
To say that on 9/11 "we know Islam also was the target." is a travesty! It is an insult to our intelligence. Islam was not the target, innocent women and men were. I know not all Muslims are terrorists, and most only want to live their lives and not engage in conflict, but I also am very tired of trivialization and rationalization and REVISIONISM of Muslim acts of terror. Denying or changing reality will not bring any solution.
2010-12-18 14:26 Azad wrote:
Mr. Ben: Yes, Have u? The word ‘sword’ is not mentioned even once in the entire Qur’an. So, where does this myth come from? Surprise! it is in Bible though:Leviticus 7 & Psalm 6-8. On crusaders´ attack in Constantinople historian Nicetes wrote:To the sound of trumpets and waving their drawn swords, the Latin began to plunder the houses and the churches. I do not know how to tell of the iniquities committed by these scoundrels.They smashed the altar of Santa Sophia, violated all the women.mirror?
2010-12-18 14:19 Ben wrote:
My moderate Muslim friends have shown me parts of the Quran telling Muslims to kill Jews and Christians. They have told me that these verses were written by the Prophet in the context of ´that period´. You should read the whole Quran. I am not religious but the Quran is chilling and some parts are very hateful to me personally.
2010-12-18 12:57 ML wrote:
Sweden is as much a target for Allah´s terror as anywhere. Sura 8:12 doesn´t appear to have geographical limitations: Remember thy Lord inspired the angels (with the message): "I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instil terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them."
2010-12-18 12:46 Robert wrote:
Rusty, most terrorists in Europe are not Muslims but ultra nationalists. Furthermore the next(?) Prime Minister of India believes extreme Hindues are a bigger threat than extreme Muslims according to documents on Wikileaks. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/17/india-wikileaks-cables-row.
2010-12-18 12:43 Ben wrote:
Read the Quran and you will know why.
2010-12-18 12:40 Rusty wrote:
This is a nice article Abdul; very well-written and obviously from your heart. I just don´t understand why so many of the terrorists in the world seem to be Muslim (none are Buddhist or Hindu) and why, if Muslims are so inclined to be peaceful, there is so little outcry against the global slaughter that happens every day at the hands of radical Muslims.


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