Different Tactics Against Extreme Islamism in France and Sweden

Culture - March 11, 2024

Most countries in Europe are grappling with Islamist extremism. France has been hit hard by terrorist acts and in Sweden Hamas sympathizers demonstrate openly in the streets. When it comes to intervening against the growing threat, France is leading the way with clear messages that are followed up with action. In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats (ECR) are alone in wanting to do the same.

In a demonstration for Palestinians in Gothenburg, second largest city in Sweden, people in full Hamas uniform participated. On the headband was written “Nukhba” which is the name of the elite force within Izz ad-din al-Qassam, the military branch of Hamas. Nukhba led the attack on October 7 when women were subjected to torture-rape before being summarily murdered. After the atrocity, motorcades drove around Swedish cities. They honked and waved Palestinian flags to celebrate Hamas’s victory.

No one in Sweden has been arrested or even questioned about their public support for violent extremism and mass murder.

Majority of Swedes support closing of extreme mosques

The attack prompted the Sweden Democrats’ party leader, Jimmie Åkesson, to put forward a proposal at the party’s congress last fall to ban mosques that spread extremist messages.

This was met with harsh criticism in the Swedish media and from most other parties in the Riksdag. It was considered anti-religious freedom and xenophobic. But the Swedish people stand behind Åkesson. An opinion poll published by the news channel Riks shows that roughly 60 percent of the Swedish people consider it right to ban and close mosques that spread extremist messages. It was only voters who identify with the Green Party and the former Communist Party where there was a slight preponderance for not banning mosques that spread extremism.

Otherwise, in all age groups there was a clear majority for a ban and only 20-30 percent against. Only the youngest age group, 18-29 years, deviated and there it weighed more evenly.

Expell those who act against Swedish interests

In March, Jimmie Åkesson followed up his clear policy in the fight against Islamist extremism with a proposal that the government should again be empowered to deport people with foreign citizenship who act against the interests of the kingdom.

Swedish governments had this option until the 1970s, when politicians wanted to avoid making controversial decisions and transferred the deportation process to special migration courts.

– A person who has dual citizenship and obviously has loyalty to a foreign power, then it can be interesting to look if deportation can be relevant, says Åkesson.

For police officers, it is common knowledge that gang criminals are not afraid of ending up in Swedish prisons that maintain a very high standard of living, they are, on the contrary, afraid of being deported to their old homeland.

The Sweden Democrats are alone – so far

Despite the intense debate that Åkesson’s statement resulted in, no other parties have backed his proposals. Not even the Centre-right government (EPP/RE), which depends on the Sweden Democrats (ECR) to gain a majority in parliament, is prepared to take any stricter measures against Islamist extremism in particular. This despite the fact that Swedish security police have raised the terror threat level since last year.

France does it differently

In France, they have come much further. The country has been hit by several bloody acts of terrorism. Recently, Imam Mahjoubi was expelled after repeatedly preaching an intolerant and violent interpretation of Islam. The French authorities note that such sermons encourage discrimination against women, hatred of Jews and jihadist radicalization.

And France’s government, despite being liberal (RE), is ready to go even further. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has spoken in favor of introducing a special status for imams, which means that they will be forced to undergo special training in order to act as religious leaders in France.

The difference in political preparedness to intervene against religious extremism is thus large between Sweden and France. What is clear and present government policy in the latter country, it is only the Sweden Democrats who stand for it in Sweden. All other parties are against tangible and concrete efforts to protect the country’s population, despite the fact that terrorist sympathizers are now more visible on the streets.

The question is whether it takes a terrorist act of the same magnitude that France suffered, for Sweden’s politicians to realize the danger of shrugging their shoulders at extremism?