In 2018 (the most recent year for which statistics were available), 7,090 hate crimes were reported, according to a report released in October 2019 by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. Of those, 8 percent were anti-Muslim. Anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and other antireligious hate crimes accounted for 4 percent each. Authorities said most victims of hate crimes did not report them to police.
In July, media reported that unidentified individuals assaulted an 11-year-old boy, mocking him for his Christian beliefs and taking the cross he was wearing. At year’s end, police were investigating the incident as a robbery with a hate crime motive. In February, media reported three men assaulted a Jewish woman, taking her Star of David pendant and mocking her for being Jewish. According to media, at year’s end, police were investigating the incident as a robbery with a hate crime motive. In September, Deputy Secretary General of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance Rudenstrand said cases of threats and violence against individuals wearing religious symbols, such as crosses or Star of David pendants, had increased during the year.
During the year, a Jewish neurosurgeon at NKS reported continuing reprisals stemming from his 2017 report that the hospital’s chief of neurosurgery subjected him and two other Jewish colleagues to anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination. In January, the DO concluded the first of three inquiries into the doctor’s allegations. The DO found NKS had not complied with its duty under the Discrimination Act to investigate alleged harassment. In November, the DO concluded the second inquiry and found the doctor’s union, the Swedish Medical Association, had violated the Discrimination Act. The union had advised the doctor to file a criminal case because it assessed a union complaint would be unsuccessful and risked harming the relationship between the union and the employer. The DO found that the union would not have advised a member in this way if the grounds for the complaint had been disability or gender and therefore had discriminated against the doctor on the basis of ethnicity. The third inquiry was underway at year’s end. In a related incident, in December, the Health and Social Care Inspectorate rejected a 2019 formal complaint by NKS that the doctor posed a risk to patient safety and rebuked NKS for identifying the doctor’s religion in its complaint.
According to media, in Malmo on August 28, supporters of the Danish right-wing party Hard Line (Stram Kurs) at an illegal demonstration burned a Quran and later in the day at another illegal demonstration kicked a second Quran. The group filmed and uploaded the incident to the internet. Subsequently, a group of Malmo teenagers and young men protested the actions of Hard Line supporters by burning tires and throwing rocks at police, resulting in minor injuries. Media reported several of the rioters chanted anti-Semitic slogans, including “Kill the Jews.” Police arrested 10-20 persons on suspicion of inciting a violent riot and three of Hard Line’s supporters on suspicion of inciting religious hatred. Police in Malmo had denied Hard Line party leader Rasmus Paludan’s request to hold the anti-Muslim demonstration at which supporters burned the Quran, and on August 28, authorities banned him from entering the country for two years. In October, however, the Migration Agency confirmed Paludan was a Swedish citizen and therefore was not subject to the ban because the Swedish constitution states that no citizen may be denied entry. The Council of Swedish Jewish Communities wrote in a statement, “We view with disgust the burning of the Quran and other holy scriptures.” The Malmo Muslim Network, an organization promoting the interests of Muslims in the city, sent a letter to Ann Katina, a leader of the Jewish community of Malmo, thanking the community for its support and saying, “[We] condemn the anti-Semitic words of hatred that some chanted during the riot.”
On August 27, the Islamic Association in Malmo organized an interfaith assembly with leaders from the Christian and Jewish communities and local politicians to counter the anticipated Quran burning, which Hard Line had announced on social media it would carry out despite not having a demonstration permit. Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen of Malmo compared the Quran burning to the Nazi book bonfires in 1930s Germany.
On November 16, the prosecutor closed the preliminary investigation of hate crimes with regard to the Quran burning in Malmo, concluding the burning itself could not be judged as incitement against an ethnic group. The investigation into possible hate crimes with regard to the demonstration held later in the day, when a Quran was kicked and there were statements that could be perceived as threats or expressions of disrespect, including suspected incitement against ethnic group, was also closed. The prosecutor said in that instance it was not possible to identify any specific perpetrator. In December, the Malmo District Court sentenced seven persons, six of whom were 16 and 17 years old, for inciting violent rioting in connection with the protest following the Quran burning incident.
The Hard Line party also claimed responsibility for two Quran burnings in Stockholm and Malmo in early September that were registered by police as hate crimes. On September 9, Stockholm Mayor Anna Konig Jerlmyr and her governing alliance party leaders published a statement condemning the planned Quran burnings in Stockholm. On September 12, the Swedish Christian Council called the acts “barbaric,” and the Jewish Community in Stockholm expressed support and solidarity with the Muslim population. Media reported on efforts by local politicians and Muslim community leaders to prevent the burnings from sparking violent responses in their communities. Tensta Mosque operations manager Abdulla Ali Abdi told mosque members to channel their anger into “chang[ing] politics instead of rioting.” Fifteen Muslim congregations submitted a petition to regional politicians on September 12, stating a desire to amend the constitution to prohibit the burning of sacred texts and mocking religions. As of year’s end, no action had been taken on the petition.
According to media, on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a bag marked with a Star of David and containing soap and anti-Semitic literature was found outside the Norrkoping City Museum, where an exhibit entitled “Nazism and Norrkoping Now and Then” was on display. No suspects were detained.
Media reported that in October, the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities and the country’s chapter of the European Jewish Congress protested the Arab Book Fair in Malmo for making available online a book called The Synagogue of Satan: The Secret History of Jewish World Domination. Following the complaint, the fair organizers removed the book, which was published by a Syrian publisher, from the website. The fair organizers released a statement that selling the book “violates our principles of rejecting antisemitism and respecting all religions and beliefs. It was a mistake that should not have happened.” Media reported the Malmo city government suspended its partnership with the Arab Book Fair and was considering seeking reimbursement for the 150,000 kronor ($18,400) it had contributed to it. In a statement, Malmo’s Cultural Director Pernilla Conde Hellman condemned the selling of the book, saying, “It goes against everything we stand for and we therefore choose to immediately terminate the cooperation.” The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities issued a statement welcoming the swift action taken by Malmo City government and the fair organizers’ condemnation of the sale.
In December 2019, the Church of Sweden released a document entitled “The Church of Sweden’s View on Male Circumcision” that stated, “Male circumcision in Judaism, Islam, and certain Christian traditions is a significant identity-creating act from a religious, ethnic, and cultural perspective. It falls under the right to religious freedom and the parents’ right to, on the basis of wanting the best interests of their child, incorporate the child into their own religious tradition and community. In the Church of Sweden’s view, circumcision of boys does not in itself contravene the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Media reported that on February 4, Rabbi HaCohen in a post on Facebook said the Church’s position paper was “an extremely important statement” and it was “very good to see that they [the Church] understand how beyond religious freedom, not allowing this would be subtracting from a child’s identity both in Judaism and Islam.”
According to an article published in Israeli newspaper Haartez on March 23, an 18-year-old man who joined the NRM when he was 15 decided to leave the neo-Nazi group and help a woman who directed a local Jewish cultural center in the town of Umea to combat anti-Semitism.
In September, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights published an overview of anti-Semitic incidents in the European Union between 2009 and 2019 that showed a rise of reported anti-Semitic cases in the country. On a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 being the most comfortable, the 1,000 respondents replied with a median 6.8 when asked if they would be comfortable having a Jewish neighbor, and 5.8 when asked if they would be comfortable with having a close family member marry a Jew. Both Muslim and Jewish groups in the country stated there had been an increase of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiments online during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Swedish Defense Research Agency received 500,000 kronor ($61,200) to produce a report on anti-Semitism in social media and other digital environments. The report, published on October 6, studied 2.5 million social media posts on Jewishness or Jews and found approximately 25 percent contained anti-Semitic stereotypes, and an additional 10 percent did not explicitly include a stereotype but nevertheless expressed hostility towards Jewish people. The study found that most prevalent were references to “Jewish power” and the role of Jews as a secret driving force behind many major political events. A large proportion of the stereotypes portrayed Jews as threatening and dangerous, therefore justifying violence against Jews. The study was based on English-language data obtained from Twitter, Reddit, Gab, and 4chan during a six-month period in 2019.
In February, the Pew Research Center published findings on attitudes toward democratic principles, such as regular elections, free speech, and free civil society, as well as religious freedom, in 34 countries, based on interviews it conducted in its Spring 2019 Global Attitudes Survey. According to the findings, 53 percent of Swedish respondents considered religious freedom to be “very important,” ranking it among the lowest of their priorities for democratic principles of the nine tested.
In September, the University of Gavle’s annual report and poll on the population’s attitudes toward ethnic diversity showed a deteriorating positive view of religious diversity over the last 15 years. According to the findings, 65 percent of the 1,035 respondents believed Muslim women to be more oppressed than other Swedish women. In addition, 73 percent of respondents said schools with an Islamic affiliation made integration of Muslims more difficult, an increase from 71 percent in 2018. A majority of the of the respondents expressed support for a ban on the use of burqas or niqabs, with 76 percent of respondents supporting a ban on these coverings in schools, and 73 percent supporting such a ban in workplaces.
In February, the Christian Council of Sweden presented a report, Young Believers in Society. The report was based on a survey of almost 400 respondents in Christian youth organizations. Nearly half of the respondents stated they had felt discriminated against or offended because of their religious beliefs. Twenty-two percent of respondents said teachers or youth-center leaders had insulted them because of their Christian faith. Minister of Education Ekstrom commented on the report, stating, “No student in Sweden should be questioned or challenged because of their Christian faith or religious beliefs.”
In November, five mosques in Malmo, Eskilstuna, Stockholm, and Gothenburg received envelopes containing threats and a white powder, which police determined was nontoxic. Local police initiated investigations and the Swedish Security Police was informed. Media reported that the Eskilstuna Grand Mosque had also previously received several threats via letters, text messages, and telephone calls. According to the mosque, messages stated mosque members should leave the country, did not “fit in,” and were murderers and terrorists.
In August, unidentified individuals vandalized the Christian church in Vastra Skravlinge in Malmo over the course of seven consecutive days. The Sweden Democrats in Malmo consequently asked the Church of Sweden to conduct a local survey on anti-Christian attitudes. The priest of the vandalized church, Mikael Goth, expressed hesitation about the survey, stating “it would risk further increasing the already existing polarization between different groups.”
During the year, courts convicted several leading members of the neo-Nazi group NRM of hate speech and death threats on social media directed at Jews. In the largest hate speech trial in the country’s history, measured by the number of charges, the Solna District Court sentenced NRM member Anders Jonsson to 10 months in prison and fined him 10,000 kronor ($1,200) for making 122 social media posts between January and April that were deemed hate speech. The posts included pictures of Nazi leaders, Nazi slogans, and incitements to violence against Jews. In a separate case in January, the Solna District Court convicted Jonsson of hate speech on social media and for sending hundreds of text messages with Nazi content to two journalists and a lawyer. On May 25, the Stockholm District Court convicted three NRM members for hate speech expressed during an annual conference of political leaders in Visby in 2017, when the three individuals chanted Nazi and white supremacy slogans.
Media reported that the NRM conducted a series of anti-Semitic actions on Yom Kippur (September 27-28) in coordination with NRM groups in Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. Approximately 10 NRM members demonstrated outside the synagogue in Norrkoping. According to media, one poster at the demonstration described in graphic detail an unfounded theory as to why Jewish male circumcision takes place and stated the Talmud sanctioned rabbis having sex with children. The NRM also distributed flyers with anti-Semitic messages and plastered posters with anti-Semitic messages in several cities. The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities expressed disgust over the actions and called for the government to ban the organization. On October 1, in an opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism requested increased action and awareness from police and judicial agencies regarding anti-Semitic crimes. On October 5, Ambassador-at-Large for Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law Annika Ben David wrote on Twitter, “When antisemitism and incitement to hatred or violence occur, all of society is affected. This is unacceptable.” She joined the IHRA in condemning the demonstrations. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on October 5, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson stated, “The Swedish government condemns all acts of anti-Semitism and any other expression of racism. Such acts are threats not only to individuals but to us all and to our open and democratic societies.” In 2019, the government appointed a nonpartisan 25-member committee to consider the introduction of specific criminal liability for participation in a racist organization and a ban on racist organizations, such as the NRM. The committee’s activities were ongoing at year’s end.
On February 13, producers of the television reality show Big Brother removed two contestants after one of them, complaining of his boss, said, “She was a Jew, so I get it.” The other contestant responded, “I hate Jews.” The incident received wide media coverage in the country and internationally. A third contestant had previously expressed support for neo-Nazi ideas on social media, although he said he no longer held those views. Producers did not remove him from the show. According to media, Jewish community leaders said, “When a person on such a popular show among youth as Big Brother said something like this, it legitimized anti-Semitism.”
In November, the Jewish Community in Malmo and the Jewish Cultural Association 1945 held a virtual event in remembrance of Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass,” when in 1938 Nazi Germany destroyed Jewish synagogues, schools, and businesses). Imam Salahuddin Barakat of the Islamakademin participated and stated, “We as a Muslim congregation in Malmo are determined and dedicated to bear this pain with you and fight anti-Semitism no matter where it takes place.” The organization Holocaust Survivors in Sweden organized a virtual lecture with Holocaust survivor Livia Frankel in remembrance of Kristallnacht. The lecture was also broadcast at the town square of Umea, accompanied by a light show.
As part of the Jewish-Muslim Amanah project in Malmo, Imam Salahuddin Barakat and Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen continued to speak to students during the year about religious tolerance and conducted interfaith workshops to discuss religious texts and spiritual queries. The Malmo municipality and the SST provided partial funding for the project.
In January, Archbishop of the Church of Sweden Antje Jackelen organized an interfaith conference in Malmo on migration and integration of refugees and asylum seekers with 72 participants from 15 European countries. The conference inaugurated a European interfaith network called A World of Neighbors. On October 22, the Malmo NGO Diversity Index awarded the network a Diversity Index Award in the category “Faith and Religion” for its interfaith and intercultural efforts to increase knowledge on integration of refugees and migration.
Interfaith groups continued to operate in the country, including the National Interfaith Council of Sweden, established as a meeting place for national religious leaders in Uppsala in 2010 with a mandate to address issues related to religion and religious freedom. Member groups included the Christian Council of Sweden, Muslim Council of Sweden, Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, and Swedish Buddhist Cooperation Council. Representatives from the Alevite, Baha’i, Church of Jesus Christ, Hindu, Mandaean, and Sikh communities also participated in the group. The Interreligious Council of Stockholm, established in 2017, included the Baha’i Congregation, Bosnian Islamic Congregation, Church of Sweden, Evangelical Congregation, Finnish-Orthodox Church, Georgian-Orthodox Church, Hindu Mandir, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Islamic Ahmadiyya Congregation, Islamic Shia Congregation, Jewish Community in Stockholm, Pentecostal Movement, Roman Catholic Church, Sikh Gurdwara Sangat Sahib, Stockholm Mosque, Swedish Buddhist Cooperation Council, and Uniting Church of Sweden. The interreligious council’s efforts included promoting respect for religious diversity and addressing violence associated with religion. Together for Sweden, an interfaith group working with youth, included the Church of Sweden, Sofia Congregation (Christian), Jewish Community in Stockholm, Islamic Association, Ibn Rushd (Muslim), and Young Dharabdmis och Ashavans (Zoroastrian).