What are the wider issues behind the shootings in Malmö? Liz Fekete reports

Between August 1991 and January 1992, at a time of heated debate about immigrants, John Ausonious (now serving a life sentence) killed one man and seriously injured ten others, most of them immigrants – in shootings which occurred in and around Stockholm and Uppsala. He was dubbed the laser man because he used a rifle equipped with laser sight (which the current gunman does not). Some journalists are attempting to broaden the media debate, by pointing to lessons from this bleak period in Swedish history….

Back in the 1990s, the populist anti-immigrant party, New Democracy, was active, and members were elected to parliament. Today, the Sweden Democrats (an avowedly neo-Nazi party in the 1990s but now, following a makeover, presenting themselves as the Swedish version of the Danish People’s Party) have just won twenty seats in the Swedish parliament. In the 1990s, there was growing societal hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers with the view of the far-Right affecting national immigration and asylum policies – all set against a backcloth of racist violence against refugees and arson attacks on asylum hostels. But, today, in Sweden, the hostility is increasingly being targeted at Muslims – while the mainstream debate also tends to blame Muslims for failing to integrate into Swedish society.

The linked shootings have taken place in a number of districts around central Malmö where the sniper can hide or in more working-class areas where dense housing estates provide camouflage. Areas range from the multi-racial area of Vendelfridsgatan, and the working-class district of Lönngaten (where the Sweden Democrats are strong) to the more up-market district of Köpenhamnsvägen. Lisa Bjurwald is an investigative reporter on the anti-fascist magazineExpo. “What we do know,” she explains, “is that the climate is similar to that of 1991-92”. And today we “have a debate on integration that is increasingly crossing the line into Islamophobia and anti-immigration views”.

IRR, 1 November 2010