The investigative program reveals that the advice women get from some Imams flouts Swedish law. Photo: SVT

Integration minister welcomes idea of training imams in Sweden

Six out of ten mosques give advice that is not in line with Swedish law to women who come to them seeking help, according to Swedish Television's investigative program Uppdrag Granskning.

Swedish Islamic representatives do not approve of the advice and demand that education is needed to overcome the problem. Integration minister Erik Ullenhag of the Liberals tells newspaper Dagens Nyhether that he welcomes the idea of training more imams in Sweden.

Uppdrag Granskning used hidden cameras and recorded telephone conversations to capture how different mosques reacted to women seeking counsel. For example, one woman said that her husband abused her and had taken on another wife. The woman said that she no longer wanted to have sex with her husband and sought advice.

Six of the ten mosques said that the woman did not have the right to deny her husband sex. The same number advised against filing a police report. Nine out of the ten mosques said that plural marriage is acceptable, under certain conditions.

However, when journalist Janne Josefsson conducted open interviews addressing the same issues, the mosques' official stances were completely different, which prompted an image of an Islam with two agendas: one hidden and one official.

Imam Mahmoud Khalfi, who chairs Sweden's council of Imams (Sveriges imamråd), tells news agency TT, "Our official version is the one we believe in and the message we want to send. Then, there are individuals who can get it wrong."

The chair of the Islamic society in Sweden (Islamiska förbundet I Sverige), Omar Mustafa, tells TT, "Violence against women cannot be defended in any way, neither with respect to Swedish law nor Islamic values. Force, violence, oppression, and fear do not belong in a marriage."

Mohammad Fazlhashemi, a professor and author of books on the history of ideas in Islam, tells TT that the men in the segment confirm a charicature of Islam. "It's extremely regrettable that they live up to all the prejudices that Islamophobes have," he says.

Fazlhashemi and many others TT interviewed believe that Swedish imam education is needed to combat the problem, since today imams have often been educated in their home countries. Imam Khalfi says that imams and people who give advice need education about laws and society.

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