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Thursday, 31 March 2011

Sweden targets religious prejudice

Sweden's government has announced plans to chart the extent of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the country, as it attempts to counteract the spread of intolerance towards minorities.

The government is to task the state-run Living History Forum (Forum för levande historia) with preparing a report on the issue by August 19th. The public agency will compile all relevant data and examine the possible causes of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Sweden.

Integration minister Erik Ullenhag, from the centre-right Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), told newspaper Dagens Nyheter that upgrading the status of history as a school subject was one possible step that could be taken to arrest the development of religious prejudices in the country.

“Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are particularly serious, since they are forms of ideologized hatred,” Ullenhag told The Local.

The minister said he had noted a tendency in the Swedish debate whereby both Jews and Muslims in Sweden were held collectively accountable for matters over which they had no control.

“Jews in Sweden are held accountable for what the Israeli government does, and the Muslim group has been met with suspicion ever since the 11th of September as potential terrorists,” said Ullenhag.

“What worries me an awful lot is that, in my conversations (with both groups), I’m receiving signals that both Jews and Muslims are testifying to being the subject of harassment because of their religious symbols.”

Ullenhag met with representatives from the Swedish Muslim community in January in an attempt to develop a strategy for combating Islamophobia in the wake of a Stockholm suicide bombing that terrified Christmas shoppers and left the attacker dead.

The suicide bombing risked resulting in suspicions being cast against hundreds of thousands of Swedish Muslims, Ullenhag explained at the time.

The minister also cited a recent study from the Forum for Living History which found that the level of tolerance among Swedish youth for Muslim, Jews, and Roma had decreased in recent years.

The Local Sweden