Report from Malmo

Swedish journalist Paula Neuding provides a sobering report on events surrounding the riots that greeted Israel’s Davis Cup team in Malmo last week. Neuding reports:

On their end, left-wing Swedish politicians worked to grant legitimacy to the protests. After war broke out in Gaza, a majority in the local Malmö council decided that no audience would be allowed at the Davis Cup games between Sweden and Israel. The representative of the Left Party (as the Communist Party was rechristened in 1990) made it clear that the decision was due to Israel’s “genocide” against the people of Gaza.

The popular mayor of Malmö, Ilmar Reepalu, who is often referred to by the nickname “Malmö’s strong man,” is one of the most influential figures of the Social Democratic Party. He told the assembled media before the match that, were it up to him, Israel wouldn’t be allowed to participate at all. “This is not a match against just anyone,” he explained. “It is a match against the state of Israel.”

Sweden hasn’t subjected a country to a sports boycott since South Africa was barred from playing in the country during Apartheid. But Malmö’s “strong man” has changing demography to consider. Of Malmö’s 287,000 inhabitants, 50,000 are Muslim and 30,000 are of Arab origin. In 2004, the most common name for baby boys in the city was Mohammed. These population changes, of course, have far-reaching political implications. Or as Reepalu put it, when explaining the motivation for the Davis Cup boycott, “A large part of Malmö’s population comes from the Middle East. Many have relatives in Gaza who have gotten in trouble. They are frustrated and angry with Israel’s occupation.”

The reference to frustration and anger with “Israel’s occupation” is of course to Israel’s occupation of Israel. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Those following the news will be aware that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza didn’t do much to pacify the region. The existence of Israel itself seems to be the problem.

Neuding then steps back to give an ominous portrait of the Muslims in Malmo:

The heart of Muslim and Arab life in Malmö lies in the RosengÃ¥rd district, located within walking distance from the city center. When the neighborhood, whose name means “rose garden,” was built in the late 1960’s it was a symbol of the ruling Social Democrats new egalitarian society.

Today RosengÃ¥rd’s population consists to nearly 90 percent of immigrants, originating mainly from Palestine, former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Iraq, and Poland. Unemployment hovers around 38 percent, and 20 percent of the population subsists on welfare. It is a neighborhood where fire fighters dare not go without police escort. The fire brigade has responded to assaults against its trucks by developing a new “methods of dialogue” with RosengÃ¥rd’s youths.

In December, the neighborhood was shaken by violent riots after a so-called basement mosque was not extended a new lease agreement. In response, local youths occupied the mosque, set cars on fire, and fired rockets at the police. In the Swedish media the riots were largely described as an expression of frustration and anger, due to social inequalities.

But RosengÃ¥rd lies in the world’s most generous welfare state. Those who cannot provide for themselves and their families have a right to social welfare, which according to Swedish law must cover the cost for food, clothes, shoes, leisure activities, health and hygiene, health care and medicines, a daily newspaper, a phone, living expenses, electricity, commuting to work, home insurance, membership in a workers’ union and unemployment insurance. The frustrated and angry youngsters in RosengÃ¥rd get health care at a minimal cost, free dental care, free school, and free college and university education, with the right to student benefits and loans. Social inequality is, therefore, a poor model for explaining not only a rise in crime the neighborhood has seen in the last few years, but also in political radicalization.

This way RosengÃ¥rd not only stands as a monument over the once so egalitarian ambitions of the Swedish Social Democracy. The neighborhood has also become a symbol for the fact that too many of the country’s Arab immigrants have brought anti-democratic values from their home countries; values that neither “dialogue police” nor the world’s most generous welfare system has been able cure. And it is also becoming a symbol of a Western country that is prepared to compromise with those values

What Western country isn’t prepared to compromise its principles rather than stem the tide of hostile immigrants? Or is prepared to insist on the assimilation of those who constitute an adversary culture in our midst?

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