Sweden's rising Muslim tide
Home to one of Europe's most Muslim cities, the country may also be host to increasing radicalism.
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"I know for a fact that there are small extremist groups in Malmo," says Arjumand Carlstein, a social worker at Malmo Islamic Centre, attached to the mosque. "And apart from the organized groups, you also have the Internet and extremists can easily communicate with each other in other parts of the world."Skip to next paragraph
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This global phenomenon appears to be spreading to Sweden. In August, several short video clips appeared on the Internet purporting to show experimental detonations of explosives in a wooded valley, supposedly in Sweden.
In September, another Islamist website claiming to speak for Ansar Al-Sunna, the Iraqi terrorist group, said the group had established "a small isolated training camp in southern Sweden."
"We wish to inform the Ummah," said the website, referring to the global Islamic community, "that the Army of Ansar Al-Sunnah in Sweden are well-trained to defend our holy countries ... having established a Mujahideen training camp, located in Skane [the region in southern Sweden that includes Malmo] ... with the help from Allah."
The website's authors claimed that the camp would only be used to train fighters for combat abroad. However they also promised to "capture and punish" the Swedish Evangelist preacher Runar Sogaard who in March called Islam's Prophet Mohammad a "pedophile" for marrying a girl who, according to many Muslim traditions, was only 9 years old.
The website has since been closed down, and experts interviewed for this article were unaware of any such camps. However, the jihadists' claims suggest that problems lie beneath the placid exterior of Swedish society.
While lavish welfare payments have to some extent enabled Sweden to buy off Muslim discontent more effectively than France, some think this has also fomented other problems by preventing many immigrants from advancing economically or socially in Swedish society.
"The Swedish system is very pacifying," says Carlstein. "A lot of people feel you don't have to get a job or learn the language," adding that unemployment and social immobility can help fuel radicalism.
But so far there have been no terrorist attacks or Paris-style revolts in Sweden, and violence in Malmo has been largely between criminal gangs, together with some sporadic attacks against Jewish targets and municipal buses.
"France has a tradition of revolt and demonstration against the state," says Jonathan Friedman, professor of social anthropology at the nearby University of Lund. "But in Sweden it's almost as if the state has sided with the immigrants against the Swedish working class."
"Sweden thinks of itself as immune from terrorism because of its foreign policies," adds Magnus Ranstorp, an analyst at the Swedish National Defence College.
"But one has to be worried about issues like in Holland," he continues, referring to the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, "although it would take a lot for something like that to happen in Sweden."