Sahlin: municipalities naive about violent extremism

Many municipalities in Sweden are not well enough prepared to prevent violent Islamism among youth, reports Swedish Radio's Kaliber program.

Kaliber surveyed 132 people in charge of municipal social service offices throughout the country, and 70 percent of them said that today, they don't believe they have the tools to prevent violent Islamism among youth.

Mona Sahlin, the national coordinator against violent extremism, says that municipalities need to know more about radicalization, and was concerned about a certain amount of naivite.

"Therefore, one of my big and important tasks is to see to it that all municipalities actually have a strategy," she says. "There's also a naivite here among many municipalities, because if you don't have problems with extremists, maybe you will have."

Muhammad El-Alti, spokesperson for Gothenburg's mosque, wants to see efforts to help young people who are in the "risk zone", reports Kaliber.

"It's extremely important that there's somewhere to turn to when someone feels that they're not managing it any longer – that they want to get out, quite simply," says El-Alti.

El-Alti believes that one way to prevent violent Islamist extremism is to borrow from activities that today are geared towards counteracting right-wing extremist groups.

According to the Swedish Intelligence Service, Säpo, at least 130 Swedes have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Al-Qaida-inspired groups like IS, but support for relatives and for preventative work has not gotten underway in many of the municipalities.

Mona Sahlin says that Sweden's Association of Local Authorities and Regions also has an important task of pushing forward these issues.

Greta Berg, who works with crime prevention at the association, says that while it seems municipalities want to be better equipped to deal with this challenge, it's not an easy question.

"There needs to be someone who warns the municipality that there's someone on the way (to fight) or who has come home, so there needs to be teamwork between different societal players," Berg says, adding that municipalities need to know more about how to best treat these individuals and influence them.