42) Books and Hate

This story is a bit different than the usual ones. It is a speech that was written in the name of a group of people as response to some islamophobic incidences (including burning of Koran books) in Sweden in summer. They are describing what to fight against. This purpose is giving them quite clear words, about the awareness that hate as a response to fear is not a good solution. The message counts in other places and for other types of hatred the same.

“The Crime Prevention Council reports that ‘In recent years there is an increased reporting of Islamophobic hate propaganda and Islamophobic hate crimes taking place in Sweden and around Europe’. Islamophobia can take various forms such as propaganda, social and economic discrimination, threats, harassment and incitement against ethnic groups. In recent years, we have also had a number of examples of vandalism of mosques and burning of the Koran.

What has happened the last time is more than an isolated event – more than the burning of the Koran or attacks on mosques. The incidences are part of a more comprehensive effort to divide our society and create polarisation between different groups. The purpose is to create a ‘We and Them’ who do not stick together, who are not equally valuable and who can not live together.

History has shown what such polarisation and demonisation can lead to. This is not the first time that books are burning in Europe and as Henrik Heine said, ‘where you burn books you end up burning people too’. We have seen this during World War II when Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and dissidents were placed in concentration camps under Nazism. And we know what the ongoing polarisation can lead to, such as in China, where the Uighur ethnic group is oppressed and forcibly placed in various retraining and labor camps. It has also led to the terrorist attacks in Norway in 2011 with more than 70 victims, the terrorist attack in Stockholm in 2017 with 5 victims, including an 11-year-old girl, and the terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch in 2019 with 50 victims.

Islamophobia, Afrophobia, Antisemitism and other types of hatred create a fragmented society characterised by violence and abuse. One can also note that Sweden’s problems can not be solved with Islamophobia. Islamophobia can not be solved with riots either. Because the riot will only destroy our properties and our society. And it will only be used to spread Islamophobia.

It is often said that Sweden has major problems with crime, racism, sexism, discrimination, segregation and other types of extremism. Yes! These problems need to be discussed! And these problems need to be addressed! But they can NOT be tackled with hatred – whether it is Islamophobia or something else! And they can absolutely not be solved by force or riot!

A better Sweden demands that we all deal with these problems and examine their social, economic, political, legal and intellectual causes. This requires extensive cooperation between individuals and organisations, including politicians and civil society actors, economists and lawmakers, academics and journalists. Then we must find appropriate measures to combat Islamophobia and other hateful ideologies that divide our society.

A better Sweden demands that we go from words to action but also from hatred to solidarity and that is why we stand here today.”