A Victory for Hatred in Sweden?

Swedish voters have, according to exit polls, narrowly re-elected the governing center-right Alliance coalition short of a majority with 49.1 percent of the vote. The far-right Swedish Democrats—one of whose candidates stated recently that Muslims in his town should not be allowed to practice their faith; another wrote on his blog that black Africans are genetically programmed to rape women and children—were voted into parliament for the first time. With such a narrowly split house, the Swedish Democrats could be in the position of kingmaker of the next government.

Here are some of the most noteworthy stories related to these developments:

On a positive note, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life last week launched a report examining some of the oldest, largest, and most influential Islamic groups—from the Muslim Brotherhood to mystical Sufi orders and networks of religious scholars—in order to help provide a better understanding of how such movements and networks seek to influence the views and daily lives of Muslims in Western Europe. The report, titled Muslim Networks and Movements in Western Europe, is available on the Pew website.  "Low Support for Radicalism Among European Muslims," from Reuters, looks at a few of the report's highlights.

Note: I get much of this information from these two great resources: the Islam in Europe blog and the ICARE Anti Racism Newsletter.

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A wake-up alarm for sure, but not the catastrophe portrayed. The Sweden Democrats won about 20 seats in the Riksdag, which is about five percent of the representatives. While they very well may become the pivot between right and left, more likely the Greens will affiliate with the Moderates (conservatives) and that will be sufficient to win the day for moderation and progress in some circles. Americans reading this should also be aware, while the SD are bad apples, they're about the same as the US Tea Party, not the Nazis. American politics skew to the right, so even the Moderates revile the SD and will do everything possible to avoid joining up.

What was surprising was that most of the SD gains were in Skåne province wherein exists Malmö, Sweden's third largest city and its most progressive (at least, most Social Democratic). The split between urbanity and rural know-nothing-ism couldn't be more acute. On the other hand, again: the few seats won were meager in comparison with the major parties.

Denmark has endured the Folk Party sharing in power for several years. It's more entrenched than the SD is in Sweden and although its policy initiatives have been pathetic, these represent a minority POV. The FP haven't won over anyone other than farmers and ultra-capitalists, nor has it turned Denmark into a bastion of reaction.

Xenophobia in Denmark is more attributable to the heated global Muslim reaction to the Muhammed Cartoons that mocked Islam as an religion of terrorism. In that regard, the few Danes involved were in fact very like the Taliban they attacked in print.

All of which is to say, it's too bad Sweden is sullied by the SD win, but it's a very small win. Equally impressive were gains by the Pirate Party, which stands for privacy rights and open government; and by smaller parties on the Left which made up some for waning enthusiasm -- sound familiar, Americans? -- for the Social Democrats.

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