Islamophobia

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With Aisha Jallow

Perhaps you have heard on the news of the islamophobic commotion in Sweden last Easter. It became a clash between the police and the demonstrators, which was exactly the aim of Rasmus Paludan who was on tour in Sweden. Mr Paludan is from Denmark and has been forbidden earlier to hold demonstrations here in Sweden. Whenever he has come, he has caused trouble. Unfortunately the police couldn’t forbid him to hold a demonstration this time, as he had found out that he has dual citizenship. One of his parents is Danish and the other is Swedish, therefore he was free to come. Mr Paludan is a lawyer and knows all the loopholes, so there was not much the police could do even if they had their doubts.

We have freedom of speech here, so even if what you are about to say is not approved by everyone, we still have to abide by the law.

The problem with Rasmus Paludan’s demonstration was that he was not only going to speak, but also burn an exemplary of the Holy Qur’an at every place. We are still in the Holy month of Ramadan where we are supposed to remain calm, but this was too much to take. The places where Rasmus Paludan had chosen for his demonstrations were all places where a lot of foreigners are living , and especially Muslims. As stupid as one might think Mr Paludan is, he is an intelligent man and has planned this thoroughly. Information about his demonstrations, places, dates, a timetable and that he is going to burn a Qur’an at every place was spread online. This information was not only spread here in Sweden, but also internationally.

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Mr Paludan’s aim was to cause as much attention as possible, so in a way he was successfull. A lot of people turned up at almost every place where Rasmus Paludan held his speech. The police were there too, to keep the order, but it turned out not to be enough police officers at sight. We are not used to have this kind of violent demonstrations, so unfortunately the police were not fully prepared for what then happened. The police were forced to protect Rasmus Paludan, who was threatened by the demonstrators, so suddenly it became the police who were the target for the angry demonstrators. More and more people turned up, and suddenly you had a lot of violent people there who only wanted to cause trouble.

It was like if Rasmus Paludan had poured out petrol on the ground, lit a match and then there was an explosion of violence, stone throwing and burning of police vehicles. So much hatred that suddenly spilled over and in the middle of this the police stood and tried to save their own lives as well as other’s. A lot of police officers were seriously injured and property for millions was up in flames. All this for one small frustrated Danish man who is unable to get the right kind of attention in his home country. He is the leader of a very small political party called Stram kurs, which means stiff course. Their main message is to throw out all the foreigners and make Denmark Danish again. A little bit the same as Donald Trump tried with his MAGA = Make America Great Again.

Rasmus Paludan is considered a dork in Denmark, he is even considered as too strict for one of the political parties here in Sweden, the Sweden democrats. This party is basing its manifesto on the same values as the German Nazi party, but nowadays they try to become more politically correct. Their main question, at the beginning, was to get rid of all our foreigners here and to make Sweden Swedish again. They had no other points on their agenda, but they have been forced to evolve – in the name of the democracy. Rasmus Paludan has said that his political party is going to participate in the election for the Swedish parliament in September this year. He his high thoughts of himself and it will be interesting to see him fail.

All these violent demonstrations that came in the traces of Mr Paludan’s burning of the Qur’an has not only damaged property and injured police officers. It has seriously injured the Muslim Ummah and given those who already hated Muslims even more arguments. This is exactly what Rasmus Paludan had planned, but with one exception. I live near one of the towns where there could have been a huge and violent demonstration, but the people there were wiser. When Mr Paludan began to speak, the bells in a nearby church began to chime. They sounded so loud so no one could hear Mr Paludan speak. He stopped speaking for a while, waited for the bells to be silenced. When Mr Paludan began to speak again, the bells began to chime once more. People started to laugh at this matter and ignored Mr Paludan. No attention – no demonstration, what a disappointment for Rasmus Paludan!

It saddens me when I hear so many complain about violent Muslims and those who are full of prejudice are convinced that all Muslims are the same. What has given me hope is that the media has tried to be neutral and not only reported one side of the story but tried to explain the different views. No one can defend the violence that sometimes was life threatening. No one can defend the burning of police vehicles. What must be explained, though, is the scheme that was behind all this. We also need to explain the way Mr Paludan’s behaviour triggered people to react. The reactions were not violent, in the beginning, but one things leads to another.

Some of the demonstrators felt frustrated that the police were defending Mr Paludan, the guy who spat on the whole Muslim world and who defiled the Holy Qur’an by setting it on fire. This frustration is understandable, but the demonstrations got out of hand. There were too many violent demonstrators and too few police officers there, so the police had to use more force than they intended in the beginning. Of course they became forced to defend themselves, what should they have done otherwise? Police officers are people too, and it hurts being hit by stones or sticks. In a heated situation it is not easy to see who is an enemy or who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

What was wrong from the beginning was to allow Rasmus Paludan to hold his speeches, but as long as the laws allow that, there is not much one can do.

The mindset of the Holy month of Ramadan should follow us throughout the whole year. Wounds will heal, but it is not easy to heal the wounds caused by the enemies of Islam. A fist cannot receive love, we need to reach out our hands to all brothers and sisters, no matter their beliefs. Let not only our words, but our actions convince them that we are not the enemy. Their fear is the enemy.