HRS International

Swedish tolerance and the Times

When it comes to Islam, the New York Times should win a special Pulitzer Prize for so nobly and valiantly missing the point over such a long period of time. In a report from Stockholm following a terrorist attack in that city, John F. Burns does the tradition proud.

By Bruce Bawer, HRS

In the wake of the Stockholm bombing, the New York Times, like most of the mainstream media in the U.S. and elsewhere, has remained depressingly true to form. Wednesday’s Times contained a news article headlined “Sweden Bombing Doesn’t Soil Image of Tolerance” by John F. Burns. You didn’t have to look past that headline itself to be clued in to the story’s grotesquely misguided emphasis. A Muslim sets out to murder Christmas shoppers, and a reporter decides to write a piece about what, if anything, has happened to “images” in the aftermath of this event – and the focus is not on whether or not the image of Swedish Muslims has been tarnished, but on the image of non-Muslim Swedes? Think for a minute about how whacked-out this is. Since 9/11, the media have put such a tortured twist on just about everything having to do with Islam that whenever there’s a terrorist attack, we’re encouraged to see it not a illuminating the nature of Islam but as a test of non-Muslim tolerance. Hooray! Some jihadist tried to blow Christmas-shopping families to kingdom come, but Sweden didn’t turn “Islamophobic” as a result – it passed the test!

Burns writes that “many Swedes have taken comfort from the attack’s most enduring image”: that of “a man in a red jacket kneeling by the dying bomber, asking if there was anything he could do for the man….Many have described it as exemplifying the compassion and tolerance Sweden prizes as part of its national character — qualities, they say, that must not be surrendered in a new era of terrorist threats.”

Compassion? Tolerance? Let’s start with “compassion.” Is this really the mot juste to describe Sweden’s attitude toward its Muslim population? This is a country, after all, where no-go zones have grown and multiplied over the last decade, where the rate of reported rapes (thanks to Muslim youths) has risen to become the second highest in the world (after Lesotho), where anti-Semitic hate crimes by Muslims have become so commonplace that Swedish Jews are emigrating in increasing numbers – and where the people have long been instructed by their masters not to talk honestly about any of this, because to do so is to be racist and Islamophobic.

The see-no-evil, speak-no-evil policy held firm until September, when the Sweden Democrats, the only major party in the country that addresses issues of immigration and integration with candor, won 5.7 percent of the vote and secured seats in Parliament for the first time. (Whether the party itself is an entirely positive phenomenon is another question.) The political and media establishment characterized this as an alarming departure from Swedish “compassion”; in fact it seemed a welcome sign that at least some Swedes have decided to start facing up to reality and taking responsibility for the country they’re going to be leaving to their children and grandchildren. This is, in short, not about “compassion”; it’s about a perverse smorgasbord of cowardice, guilt, and denial that, if not soon overcome, bids fair to collapse the Swedish welfare state, obliterate Swedish culture, and destroy Swedish freedom.

And what about “tolerance”? Yes indeed, Sweden has been incredibly tolerant – of Muslim intolerance. It has tolerated forced marriage, female genital mutilation, honor killing. It has tolerated – indeed, welcomed and celebrated – developments that no democratic society should accept. This “tolerance” is nothing to crow about.

“On Wednesday,” Burns reports,

the Swedish security police released a study of Islamic extremism that was commissioned months ago, but released now to allay public disquiet. A summary said the study had concluded that “the terrorist threat in Sweden” involves fewer “than 200 radicalized individuals,” that “they pose no serious threat to the society and government” and that Sweden’s response should be confined to “preventive measures” — and, by implication, not broader social or political changes.

For anyone familiar with the situation in Sweden, this “study” is recognizable as just more of the same old don’t-worry-be-happy spin. As Burns himself notes, officials admitted that Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, the fellow who blew himself up the other day, hadn’t made it onto their list of “radicalized individuals.”

Clearly, it’ll take more than one terrorist bombing to shake Sweden’s political establishment off script. Burns quotes Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s predictably inane response to the bombing: “Sweden is an open society which has demonstrated a will that people must be able to come from different backgrounds, believe in different gods, or not believe in any god at all — and be able to live side-by-side, together.” What Reinfeldt and his ilk stubbornly refuse to address is the fact that a diverse, free, secular society of the kind he describes is precisely what Muslims like Abdaly are out to destroy. One survey after another has shown that unsettlingly high numbers of European Muslims want to see a Europe under sharia law. Instead of mouthing platitudes, people like Reinfeldt should be addressing this grim reality head-on.

Burns says Swedes are now wondering: “Why has the culture of suicide bombing come to Sweden, when it has been one of the most generous countries in Europe in opening its doors to Muslims fleeing war and repression?” That people could even be asking such a question in the year 2010, after 9/11, Madrid, London, Bali, Mumbai, the Dutch assassinations, the Danish cartoon riots, the unrest in French suburbs, and so forth, is a tribute to the skill with which the Swedish media and Swedish politicians have misrepresented the fundamental issues involved here. Islamic terrorism in the West has nothing whatsoever to do with the question of whether or not a country has been “generous”; it’s about jihadist ideology. It’s all right there in the Koran, folks. Yet no country’s media have done a better job than Sweden’s of obscuring this fact. When the Twin Towers fell, Swedish commentators were quick to reject the claim made by some observers in the West that this was “an attack on us all.” No, it was an attack on America – and was, in the eyes of many high-profile Swedes, richly deserved. “The terrorists were attacking U.S. imperialism,” asserted the bestselling novelist Jan Guillou in Aftonbladet on September 17, 2001. “The U.S. is the greatest mass murderer of our time.” Throughout Scandinavia, the party line in the days after 9/11 was that it can’t happen here – no, we’re just too nice, too harmless, too generous, for anybody to want to hurt us! In Norway, author Gert Nygårdshaug dismissed the sentiment that “we are all Americans” and mocked the idea that “the next time terror strikes, it can be at Oslo Airport, in Rome, or in Copenhagen.” Go backpacking anywhere in the world, Nygårdshaug suggested, and if you’re American “you’re guaranteed to be met with openly hateful attitudes. But if you’re wearing a Norwegian, French, or Italian flag? Sheer goodwill and all smiles.”

One can hope that such thinking on the part of bien pensant Swedes was blown to bits along with Abdaly. But old habits die hard. Guillou, for one, hasn’t blinked; on December 13 he minimized Abdaly as a lone wacko, and argues that the real problem is that Sweden is “waging war against the most vulnerable minority” in Europe, both by “participating in the American crusade in Afghanistan” and partly by prosecuting Muslims for crimes like “conspiracy to commit terrorism” (Guillou compares such prosecutions to the actions of Nazi Germany). And most ordinary Swedes are apparently still more comfortable with the blinders on. Burns notes that “on the crowded pedestrian mall where Mr. Abdaly attacked, many shoppers walked briskly past when asked to discuss the issue, shaking their heads as if the bombing were too distasteful to consider.” Burns, it must be admitted, hits the nail on the head here: Swedes have indeed been trained from grade school onward to think that talking openly about these matters is not a matter of facing truth and showing responsibility but of taste, refinement, sophistication; they’ve long since internalized the idea that people who speak critically about Islam or Sweden’s immigration policy or its laissez-faire attitude toward integration are nothing but vulgarians.

Burns deserves credit for quoting Jimmie Akesson, head of the Sweden Democrats, who “argues that Sweden’s approach to multiculturalism has left many Muslims unable to speak Swedish, unreconciled to Swedish laws and mores that conflict with Islamic beliefs and clustered in what amount to ghettos in big cities like Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg.” But in classic Times fashion, Burns concludes his piece not by focusing on the danger that multicultural thinking and Islamic belief pose to Western democracy but by returning to the question of whether Swedes do, indeed, pass the “compassion and tolerance” test. Asked whether he had “been hassled over the bombing,” a Swedish Muslim replies no. But Masoud Kamali, a professor of social work, disagrees, calling for Sweden to “decrease the segregation and marginalization of Muslims” (as if Swedes were forcing Muslims to live together in sharia-dominated enclaves that are no-go zones for infidels!) and attributing the bombing to Swedes’ “ethnic and religious bias”:

“It’s a question of belonging,” Kamali said. “Are you accepted as you are, living as a true Muslim in a modern European country?

“The answer is no, so you have to find something else, and he found the bombing.” He added, “And I can promise you this, it’s going to happen again.”

“…you have to find something else, and he found the bombing.” Read that carefully. To react to such an “analysis” with anything other than disgust and outrage, it seems to me, is the very definition of decadence – the sign of a moral compass gone entirely awry.

But Kamali is right about one thing: it is going to happen again. And again. And again. And it will keep happening until people in places like Sweden, and major media organs like the New York Times, recognize comments like Kamali’s for the repulsive blame-the-victim claptrap that they are. The sad truth is that Sweden is going to hell in a handbasket – not because it’s shown “bias” against Muslims, but because it’s embraced Islam with open arms, all the while refusing to take a close, honest look at what it’s embracing.