Sweden and the explosive consequences of multiculturalism
Ivar Arpi on why Sweden’s crisis of integration can no longer be ignored.
Where did it all go so wrong for Sweden? The nation once known for ABBA, IKEA and its social-democratic welfare state has now become a byword for gangland killings and grenade attacks. Crime has soared to unprecedented levels. Grenade attacks have become an unwelcome feature of suburban life. Islamism is spreading unchecked. Even some on the Swedish left have been forced to acknowledge that multiculturalism is unravelling and that the state has failed to integrate vast numbers of migrants.
Swedish journalist Ivar Arpi joined Brendan O’Neill on the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show to discuss all this and more. What follows is an edited extract from their conversation. Listen to the full thing here.
Brendan O’Neill: Sweden has found itself in the middle of a global battle between liberalism and Islamism. There have been frequent violent clashes over Koran burnings, as well as a terrorist attack on Swedes in Brussels last month. How are Swedish people navigating this?
Ivar Arpi: Right now the majority opinion in Sweden is that you shouldn’t be able to do things like burn the Koran. And, like in much of the West, the response of the Swedish media and political class to any Islamist terror attack is to immediately consider the feelings of Muslims who might now face discrimination.
In the past, we’ve seen prominent figures in Sweden saying things like: ‘Now remember, all Islamists are Muslim, but not all Muslims are Islamists.’ That shift in focus away from the actual victims takes place almost immediately. This was definitely the case after Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October.
But there are also many people in the public sphere, such as journalists and academics, who are waking up to the fact that they were wrong about Islamism and multiculturalism. It’s been an ongoing development, but it’s visible.
Mixed in with all this is the fact that there has been a huge shift in how the world perceives Sweden and how we Swedes perceive ourselves. We used to be No1 when it came to exporting music, like ABBA. Now we’re No1 when it comes to exporting violent criminals. Outside of Mexico, we have the largest amount of grenade violence in a peacetime country. And the criminal gangs who plan all of this are, of course, absolutely brutal. The shootings and the killings are carried out by contract killers who are often young men or even kids.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Organised crime has skyrocketed in Sweden in recent years. We’re quickly becoming one of the main transit countries for cocaine. This reality was what characterised the debate in the days before the Hamas massacre and the terror attack in Brussels that has happened since.
The mood is definitely shifting in Sweden. I have friends who I have known my whole life, communists and pro-Palestinians, and even they are changing their perspectives. Many have realised that we are not the country that we used to be. And if we don’t do anything about it now, it might soon be too late.
O’Neill: How did things get so bad in Sweden? Has integration failed?
Arpi: People have been saying that integration and multiculturalism have failed for a very long time now. But what’s changed recently is the feeling of hopelessness. In large swathes of Sweden, Swedish culture and even Swedes themselves have become completely irrelevant. The only thing relevant in those parts of the country now is how you can get government aid and what you can get away with without police getting involved. For a lot of new migrants, that’s really the only relationship they have to Sweden.
In many areas, there aren’t really any native Swedish speakers. It’s been this way for a while now. In lots of places there’s just no mixing at all between people with migrant backgrounds and native Swedes. These groups live in different areas and their children even go to different schools. And typically these are very run down and economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods – or as we’re now supposed to call them, ‘challenged’. It’s never really specified what they’re actually challenged by.
In the past, if you lived in one of these ‘challenged’ areas, you would go to school and get a job and move away. But that’s not happening anymore. Over the past couple of decades, people are getting stuck in these bad neighbourhoods. There’s nowhere for them to go – and then they turn to crime.
On the other hand, integration has not been a total failure. Over a third of all doctors in Sweden are foreign-born, for example. A lot of the earlier cohorts of migrants are incredibly well assimilated. They see themselves and are viewed as Swedes. There’s a reason why there is the stereotype about Swedes being tolerant and welcoming – it’s mostly true! But the speed and scale of mass migration in recent years has made it impossible to reckon with. No country could have coped with these levels.
The result is that many Swedes and earlier migrants are now moving away. I know people who have left their homes and even the country because of increasing violence and organised crime. They have children they need to protect.
Ivar Arpi was talking to Brendan O’Neill on The Brendan O’Neill Show. Listen to the full conversation here:
Picture by: Wikimedia Commons.
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