Sweden is one of the largest countries in Europe in terms of land mass, but it has a relatively small population of around ten million. It is generally regarded as being the best place to live in a league of 198 nations when it comes to freedom and quality of life.
With indomitable citizens like 20-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist who is known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action on climate issues, Sweden enjoys a reputation for unrivalled levels of freedom of expression, environmental performance and happiness levels. Moreover, it ranks “high” for migrant acceptance.
The only aspect about which Sweden is ranked negatively is the country’s cost of living, which is “very high”. However, it is worth bearing in mind that Swedes earn relatively high salaries to match.
You might think that all of this makes it an outstanding place to live, but when it comes to Islam and the country’s 810,000 Muslim citizens there is a rising dark underbelly and level of hypocrisy which was exposed recently by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the self-styled champion of the world’s Muslims. The latest “freedom of speech” stunt allowed to go ahead by the Swedish authorities may eventually cost the country its longed-for membership of NATO if Erdogan digs in and carries out his threat to use his country’s veto.
The stunt began when far-right Swedish-Danish politician Rasmus Paludan announced that he was going to burn a copy of the Qur’an on Saturday, 21 January. To make the ritual all the more offensive, he chose to make his infantile protest outside the Embassy of Turkiye in the Nordic country. Paludan was given police protection and, with permission from the Swedish authorities, the burning of the Holy Qur’an went ahead, basically condoned by the state. Despite protestations from all faiths, “freedom” took precedence.
A week later it emerged that equally repugnant far-right politicians had announced that they were going to burn the Jewish holy book, the Torah. While the government chose to ignore Sweden’s 810,000 Muslims, the burning of the Hebrew Bible was swiftly halted to protect the sensitivities of Sweden’s 20,000 Jews.
Israel’s envoy to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, revealed that Tel Aviv and the local Jewish community had prevented the destruction of the Bible in coordination with Swedish officials. It was to have taken place in front of the Israeli Embassy in the Swedish capital. “We took action,” boasted Israel, “and no action was taken.” No “freedom of expression” or anything else was cited by the hypocritical Swedes.
When welcoming outsiders to its shores, as well as boasting about its top slot in the quality of life Index, Sweden should now advertise itself as the home of unrivalled hypocrisy.
“For the highest reach of injustice is to be deemed just when you are not,” observed Plato’s character Socrates in the book Republic. Sweden is many things to many people, but it clearly has a long-distance relationship with justice and equality. Its arrogance and double standards may well have cost it membership of NATO. I for one hope so, and so will many other Muslims.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.