Sweden Democrats’ anti-Muslim hysteria

Open Democracy has a good analysis of the far-right Sweden Democrats by Barzoo Eliassi:

European debates concerning asylum-seekers are notorious for deploying metaphors drawn from nature, such as “natural disasters”, “big waves” or “floods”. In the case of SD, these metaphors are extended to the military domain, where Muslim immigration will result in an “occupation”, “invasion” and “war”. Sweden is invoked as a state under siege threatened by an imagined Islamisation of Swedish society. In the same vein, the SD leader Jimmy Åkesson has argued that, “Muslims are Sweden’s greatest foreign threat since the Second World War”. Further, he has attacked mosques and veils for being markers of Islamic cultural imperialism, and sites of terrorism, gender oppression and fundamentalism….

In SD’s representations of immigrants, Muslims are ‘othered’ in cultural and religious terms regarded as incompatible with Swedish and western “core values”. These are limited to Judeo-Christian values, values of enlightenment and humanism that Muslims allegedly lack. When Muslims are discussed by SD, a variety of negative collective attributes are generalized and assigned to them such as gender oppression, forced marriage, animal abuse, social welfare abuse, criminality, rape, anti-democracy, intolerance, terrorism, and fundamentalism. The birthrates of Muslim immigrants are also viewed as a great threat by SD which forewarns that with current levels of Muslim immigration, Swedes will be a minority in their own country outnumbered by fertile Muslims. All these distorted and ill-informed provocations are used as argumentative devices to persuade and enhance anti-Muslim racism and justify exclusionary practices against Muslims….

SD combines in a peculiar way equality ideas such as “all people are equally valid” with segregationist ideas that “people from culturally distant countries are too different to assimilate”. In this way, the culturalist discourse adopted by SD neither needs to describe itself as racist nor as hierarchical in intent. On the contrary, it argues that in order to sustain peace, promote democracy and fight racism, different cultures and nations should stay put in their places of origin. Limiting immigration from Muslim countries is regarded as an anti-racist policy by SD. Culture or cultural identity as fixed entities function in this way as a useful surrogate for race and blood ties in SD’s discourse about belonging and difference. Another effective strategy that SD has adopted is recruiting party members with immigrant/Middle Eastern backgrounds that are ready and willing to dismiss criticism of SD as a racist party and thereby validate the “truthfulness” of SD’s discourse about Muslims….

SD has made it its national mission to define Muslims as a problem that should be solved and cured through repressive policies such as assimilation, ethnic and religious discrimination or expatriation. It is time for Europeans of conscience to speak up and find some viable antidotes to the emergence of these racist parties that are appearing in public spaces, smartly dressed in their suits and ties, and with no sign of swastikas. Apparently the mantra has not convinced many Europeans that “it should never happen again” because ethnic discrimination and vilification of Muslims in Europe show that European democracy is declining while racism and repressive policies are taking root and becoming the natural order of mainstream politics in many European countries.

See also “Sweden Democrats adds opposition to Islam to party program”, Islam in Europe, 27 November 2011

Like many far-right organisations that try to deflect accusations of racism by expressing their bigotry in cultural terms, the Sweden Democrats’ mask keeps slipping. The Local reports on an SD politician who see nothing wrong in calling Black people “negroes” and refers to herself as a member of “the white race”.