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Mosque fires raises fear among Swedish Muslims

Published tisdag 30 december 2014 kl 15.34
An apartment in Eskilstuna was evacuated after a room used as a mosque was set on fire. Photo: Pontus Stenberg
An apartment in Eskilstuna was evacuated after a room used as a mosque was set on fire. Photo: Pontus Stenberg

Following two fires in two different mosques in the course of a single week, the Muslim community in Sweden is worried it might become more difficult to practise their faith in the future.

Mohamed Amin Kharraki, press spokesman for the Islamic Association in Sweden, says they have noticed how it can sometimes be difficult to rent in certain areas. If this has anything to do with incidents like the fires, they don't know. But the community does worry that there will be a reaction if the situation continues to escalate. "No landlord will see it as something positive to have a tenant linked to this kind of damage," says Mohamed Amin Kharraki.

On Sunday night a fire broke out in a space used as a mosque in Eslöv. The same premises i Eslöv have been vandalized three times in just one year. And just as in Eslöv, most of the places of worship subjected to vandalism and threats are located in regular apartment buildings.

Mohammad Hammoud, the chairman of the Islamic Association in the province of Västerbotten, shares his colleague's concern. He says that if any more mosques are subject to arson, many landlords will likely think twice before taking on Muslim associations as tenants.

But even though the attacks during the Christmas holidays have caused concern among the community, Hammoud doesn't think this will scare people away.

"I really don't think people will stop going to the mosque," he says. "People will come, but I think there will be a certain amount of caution and concern that we might end up as victims of arson."

Mohamed Amin Kharraki of the Islamic Association wants the larger community to take a clear stance, to show that freedom of religion is a right protected by the Swedish constitution - and admit that this freedom has come under threat.

"There are some mosques that have suffered attacks again and again", he says. "I know Flen has on several occasions, and it isn't the first time for Eslöv either. There needs to be some way for these mosques to get help ensuring their own safety. I think that might be the most important responsibility of the Swedish authorities right now."

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