The anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim politics of the Swedish Democrat Party has been well documented. However, Sweden’s Jewish community has now come into the spotlight through a telling statement from a leading politician of the far right Swedish Democrats group. The Swedish Jewish community stands at about 20,000 and the small community has in the last few decades, felt that the level of antisemitism had finally dropped to levels where the community had felt much safer in a politically liberal environment.
Björn Söder, secretary of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats and deputy speaker in parliament, was asked whether Jews could be Swedes and whether the identities could exist at the same time. He tellingly responded by stating that,
“I think most people of Jewish origin that have become Swedes leave their Jewish identity.”
Björn Söder explicitly was saying that Jews could not be Swedes unless they left behind their Jewish identity and this form of assimilation was the only way that he could see that they could become fully fledged citizens and part of the fabric of the country.
The Swedish Democrats were founded in the 1980 by Neo-Nazi and racist groups and the party has grown to become a political force in Sweden, winning over 13% of the vote in parliamentary elections earlier this year. They were also instrumental in getting the newly formed centre-left coalition government to a point where they have been forced to call fresh elections in March 2015 and many in the country believe that this pressure to call further parliamentary elections will be to the benefit of the Swedish Democrats.
Either way, such comments do nothing to alleviate the fears of Jewish, Muslim and migrant communities in Sweden. Some Swedes also believe that the country’s international position and brand has been affected and Sweden historically has been seen to be a country that has stood for human and civil rights and has also been a haven for persecuted migrants. Time alone can tell, though these latest comments have once again brought the politics of fear to the forefront of political life in the Sweden.