Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Islamic Group Demands Partial Islamic Sharia Law in Sweden
demanding that the Muslims in Sweden should be exempt from some Swedish legislation in respect to family law and instead answer to their own laws of Islam. Leader of the Social Democrats Mona Sahlin is close to Mahmoud Aldebe, the chairman of the Union. This makes this issue relevant again today as there will be national elections in Sweden in September and Sahlin may well be the next prime minister.
The controversial demands that were requested by Aldebe included that Muslims living in Sweden adhere to Islamic law for matters such as for example divorce, marriage and schooling. The Muslims in Sweden should also, as was requested by Aldebe, get two extra days of paid vacation in order to celebrate Muslim holidays as well as two hours of paid leave every Friday in order for Muslims to attend Friday prayer.
According to Aldebe, freedom of religion in Sweden is currently insufficient, and therefore the Muslim Union in Sweden should be allowed to apply Islamic legislation for family law.
Aldebe's suggestion met negative responses from, among others, the then party leader of the People’s Liberal Party, Lars Leijonborg, former minister for Higher Education and Research. It should be noted that still to date there aren’t any other religious groups in Sweden that have made similar requests or received legal exemptions as a response to “lack of religious freedom”..
As an example of religious “freedoms” which are not accommodated by the state, according to Jewish law the Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday afternoon, meaning that observant Jews can’t work after sunset. In northerly Sweden, sunset in the winter occurs at early hours, before the end of a work day. Jewish religious employees in Sweden must work according to Swedish labor legislation. If they can’t work out a flexible schedule, adding extra hours on another day, they have to get another job that will accommodate their religious needs.
Every religion does, of course, have its own special laws, yet the state of Sweden has legislation with a separation of religion from government. Sweden today can, in actuality, be identified as one of the world’s least religious countries. With that as a given, it would oppose every Swedish norm and value to allow a religious group to apply their own religious law in place of Swedish legislation. Islamic family law as applied to divorce, parental control over daughters' marriage, separation of the genders, etc., also goes against Swedish and western norms and values.
If Sweden were to incorporate Islamic law in place of Swedish legislation for Muslim family law, this would also mean a halt to the Swedish integration process for the many Muslim immigrants that come to Sweden every year
Especially significant is that Aldebe demanded public school instruction in the pupils’ “home language”, effectively preventing students from learning Swedish with any fluency. Such a change would, instead of helping Muslim immigrants to integrate into Swedish society, further distance this already largely segregated community.
Abd al Haqq Kielan, imam for the Swedish Islamic Association (Svenska Islamiska samfundet), was one of the opponents to the demand and argued that such a change wasn't desirable. In an article last year in the Swedish daily Expressen, Kielan also noted that Aldebe (perhaps due to their differences of opinion) called him “a Jew who converted to Islam to destroy the Muslims”.
According to Imam Kielan, the time has come for Sweden “to clearly take a stance against the Aldebe’s anti-democratic Muslim powers”. It should be noted that accepting application of even a limited degree of Sharia law would also have the effect of imposing Islamic law on members of the immigrant community, whether they choose to practice Islam and accept Sharia law or not.
Before the upcoming elections it is important that Swedish voters know how the political parties in Sweden feel about such a change. Mona Sahlin, leader of the Social Democrats, has stated: "If two equally-qualified persons apply for a job at a workplace with few immigrants, the one called Muhammad should get the job. (…)”
Accepting “Islamic privilege” would mean that Sweden would take a big step away from the democratic values Swedish society (still?) represents.