Islamism a Growing Problem In Sweden's Cities?

Sweden's Integration Minister, Nyamko Sabuni, wants to look into ways of helping people that want to leave Islamist organisations in Sweden, in similar ways to how the state helps those wanting to leave Neo-Nazi groups. But how big a problem is Islamism in Sweden, is it actually an issue in areas with large numbers of immigrants, or has the picture been exaggerated and distorted in the media?

Speaking at the annual Folk och Försvar, or Society and Defence, conference in the central Swedish town of Sälen, Integration Minister Nyamko Sabuni has called for more help for those that want to leave Islamist organisations, organisations that she says are problematic.

"We see that there are problems when it comes to radical islamists", she told SR International. "There are some that are repressing young girls and women because they think they have better or more correct values than them. And then there are organisations that are recruiting our children and young people and then sending them off to war zones around the world. And if they come back to Sweden, which I hope, then we have to know how to help them. We often talk in society about helping people that want to leave neo-Nazi organisations, but I think it's just as important to help those wanting to leave radical left-wing groups, or islamists. They should get help too", minister Nyamko Sabuni says.

But are there really radical islamists in the suburbs of Swedish towns and cities surpressing and repressing others and forcing their interpretation of their faith on others? Some people living in the areas say so, including opposition politician Nalin Pekgul, who also spoke at the conference in Sälen about the issue.

Nyamko Sabuni says she wants to find out, and is to ask for a report on the issue from Sweden's Secret Service.

"We aren't sure yet how much of a problem it is yet", she says, "but I think the Secret Service have a much better picture of the situation in these areas. What we will ask them to report on hasn't been decided yet, but the order should come in the first half of this year", she adds.

Yet not everyone in the suburbs agrees with those that say that radicalisation is growing in some areas. Abdulmaaliki Maxamed is a youth leader in Rosengård, in the southern city of Malmö, a suburb that has featured heavily in media reports of problematic areas in Swedish cities. He told SR International that there is a danger in spreading a picture of growing islamism in these areas.

"If Sweden gets this picture of an area that is already broken, then the wrong people might exploit it, such as the far right Sweden Democrats, who use it as part of the politics when they say they'll save Rosengård, and stop it becoming a nest of islamist terrorism with sharia laws for example, when it really isn't like that". Youth leader Abdulmaaliki Maxamed adds there are problems with girls being repressed, but that they are more of a cultural problem than a religious one. Islam is not the culprit, he says.

Headmaster Lars Birgersson from the local Senior High School says the reports are somewhat exaggerated.

"It is rather exaggerated", he says, "yet I am aware enough to know that there are fragments of it going on. It would be strange otherwise. What I do notice, and then it is more a cultural thing than a religious one, is a discussion on certain students participation in certain lessons, but quite often it ends up being a good discussion", he adds.

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