Thursday, March 31, 2011

Integration Minister’s "Novel" Plans to Prevent Intolerance

photo source: Swedish Parliament website
The Local reports today that the government is now going to chart the rates of intolerance directed at minorities in Sweden, and produce a report in August.  According to the article, Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag (Liberal Party) is now urging that something be done about the “intolerance” (read: “hate crime”) in Sweden. 
Apparently as the result of a meeting with Muslim leaders in January, Ullenhag has decided that it is time to start teaching history to students to discourage hate crime. He claims that “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.”
Let’s hope that what Ullenhag really means is not “symbols”, but “identity”. No one is abused because they wear identifiable symbols of faith. To make that assumption neglects the totality of religious and ethnic prejudice. It also implies that removing these items would render the wearers acceptable to bigots—and that is certainly not the case.
Ullenhag makes another problematic statement:
- “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.”
This eerily parallels remarks made by Malmö’s Mayor Reepalu equating Zionism and anti-Semitism. Equating these two “rationales” for hate crime is inexcusable, and constitutes a type of justification for hate crimes from both angles.
At any rate, clocking rates of hate crime and teaching history to high school students are useful, but it hardly seems that this will protect those who are currently targets of hate crime. It would be better if Ullenhag would push for better security now, so that Malmö’s Jewish residents don’t have to pay a “Jew Tax” for community security. Reports are fine if you don’t have a picture of what’s going on, and it’s also fine to preach tolerance in the classrooms, but the problem is well-known and out there on the streets.
We also wonder why the Local couldn’t be bothered to cite the recent visit of the Simon Wiesenthal Center as the impetus to finally do something. Maybe it’s because the SWC already described the situation and proposed doable solutions which could be put in place for the Muslim, Jewish and Roma communities.
It’s hard to miss the facts that the Ullenhag plan is a delaying tactic in the form of the report, and that by throwing the hate crime issue to the schools, it completely and cheaply fails to solve the security issues which face all communities.
By Chanah Shapira

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