Scandinavian nations grapple with radical Islam and anti-Semitism after Denmark attacks

The synagogue in Malmo, Sweden. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Last Sunday, terrorist Omar El-Hussein fired shots outside a Copenhagen cultural center that was holding a debate about free speech and Islam, killing 55-year-old Danish documentary film director Finn Noergaard and wounding several others. He then opened fire outside the city's synagogue, killing Jewish volunteer security guard Dan Uzan and injuring two police officers. On Wednesday, Denmark held a funeral for Uzan, which was attended by Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

In the wake of these terrorist attacks, two other Scandinavian countries, Sweden and Norway, have been brought to the forefront in both good and bad ways in terms of their relationship with radical Islam and anti-Semitism.

In the wake of the attack in Denmark, the Swedish government has promised to re-arm police forces guarding Jewish institutions with automatic weapons, helmets, and bullet-proof vests, according to Haaretz.

But the chairman of the Zionist Federation of Sweden, Daniel Radomski, wrote in an Op-Ed that "part of the problem is that Sweden has trouble acknowledging the threat of Islamic extremism and its role in political violence."

"In response to the botched suicide bombings in central Stockholm by Taimour Abdulwahab during the Christmas rush hour of 2010, where hundreds of civilians could have been at risk, only the far-right Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) party recognized that the main terrorism threat facing Sweden comes from Islamic extremism," he wrote.

Swedish national coordinator against violent extremism and former leader of the Social Democrats, Mona Sahlin, admitted this week that anti-Semitism in the country is rising, particularly in the city of Malmo.

Yet Radomski believes that Sweden is also downplaying the gravity of anti-Semitism in that country, both on the part of radical Muslims and Swedes in general, in some cases those on the political Left.

That was perfectly exemplified this week when a journalist at the Swedish radio station Sveriges Radio (SR) asked Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman on air if “Jews themselves [are] responsible for the progression of antisemitism?” Ostensibly, the station was implying that Jewish support for or involvement with Zionism is causing Muslim anti-Semitism.

Bachman rejected the question, explaining that "the question of how a woman is responsible for being raped is absolutely irrelevant. There is no provocation made by Jews other than their very existence. For as long as the Jews have existed—perhaps because of their success—that may have created feelings against them, but they have done nothing that justifies such treatment."

"Swedish decision makers cannot claim to support Swedish Jewry and the values of a liberal democracy if they do not support the right of any Swede, especially a Jew, to voice his or her support for the State of Israel," Radomski also wrote.

In Norway—where Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg met with Jewish leaders at Oslo’s synagogue earlier this week, promising them that her country is also “committed to fighting anti-Semitism and we are committed to ensuring a society that is inclusive for all"— anti-Semitic harassment, especially on the part of many in the Muslim community, is also high.

But on a brighter note, a group of young Norwegian Muslims are planning to get together and form a "ring of peace" around the Oslo synagogue on Saturday in protest against the growing radical Muslim violence across Europe that is targeting Jews. By now, around 1,000 people have signed up to participate.

"Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply deplore all types of hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them. We will therefore create a human ring around the synagogue on Saturday 21 February. Encourage everyone to come!" states the Facebook page for the "ring of peace" event.

Posted on February 19, 2015 .