Welcome to Ramallmö
How a tennis match sparked riots in Sweden.
12:00 AM, Mar 13, 2009 • By PAULINA NEUDING
In December, the neighborhood was shaken by violent riots after a so-called basement mosque was not extended a new lease agreement. In response, local youths occupied the mosque, set cars on fire, and fired rockets at the police. In the Swedish media the riots were largely described as an expression of frustration and anger, due to social inequalities.
But Rosengård lies in the world's most generous welfare state. Those who cannot provide for themselves and their families have a right to social welfare, which according to Swedish law must cover the cost for food, clothes, shoes, leisure activities, health and hygiene, health care and medicines, a daily newspaper, a phone, living expenses, electricity, commuting to work, home insurance, membership in a workers' union and unemployment insurance. The frustrated and angry youngsters in Rosengård get health care at a minimal cost, free dental care, free school, and free college and university education, with the right to student benefits and loans. Social inequality is, therefore, a poor model for explaining not only a rise in crime the neighborhood has seen in the last few years, but also in political radicalization.
This way Rosengård not only stands as a monument over the once so egalitarian ambitions of the Swedish Social Democracy. The neighborhood has also become a symbol for the fact that too many of the country's Arab immigrants have brought anti-democratic values from their home countries; values that neither "dialogue police" nor the world's most generous welfare system has been able cure. And it is also becoming a symbol of a Western country that is prepared to compromise with those values.
During the war in Gaza, leading Social Democratic politicians, among them the opposition leader Mona Sahlin, appeared at protests where Israeli flags were burned and the Hamas and Hezbollah flag were waived openly. Sahlin, a woman who calls herself a feminist, seems to have calculated that photos of her under the Hamas and Hezbollah banners would benefit rather than harm her party. That way, Swedish politicians are also tacitly legitimizing the violence and harassment that the Jewish community is subject to. As a consequence, Swedish Jews feel increasingly unsafe.
Two weeks after Jews were chased from the main square in Malmö under cries of "Hitler, Hitler, Hitler," the Jewish community decided to organize a second demonstration. This time the police were prepared for violent counterprotests, and swiftly placed their buses between the two groups as soon as they saw signs of aggression. And this time, the Jews got to stay on the square.
One protester, a computer consultant in his mid-fifties, had still armed himself with a knife for the demonstration. His grown-up children, who had never before seen their father carry a weapon, wondered if he even knew what he would do with it.
"What do you mean what will I do with it?" he said with his thick Polish accent. "I will give you time to run."
Paulina Neuding is an editorial page contributor to the Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet.