Race in Scandinavia
by Erik Brattberg
Current demographic trends suggest that by 2020, ten percent of the overall European population will be Muslim. Although pluralism is by no means an impossibility, a large Muslim presence in Europe is not entirely unproblematic. Islamic radicals are today present in every West European country with a substantial Muslim minority. Up until 11 September 2001, these Jihadists operated in relatively interrelated network structures. The Jihadist movement is, however, currently undergoing a phase of decentralization resulting in a new form of homegrown terrorism. These terrorist cells consists predominantly of second and third generation Muslim immigrants, who inspired by Jihadist ideology are operating independently of traditional organizational structures.
The decentralization trend of terrorist networks is clearly evident in Scandinavia – a region often neglected in the global struggle against radical Islamism. Scandinavian Security Police agencies have long warned against radical tendencies in certain Scandinavian mosques (such as the Brandbergen Mosque in Stockholm and Taiba in Denmark) and among Muslim preachers (such as Mulla Krekar in Norway). Although no serious terror incident has yet been recorded in Denmark, Norway or Sweden, a number of plots by indigenous terrorist operatives to carry out attacks have recently been unraveled in Scandinavia. For instance, in September 2006, five men were sentenced to jail for planning a serious terror attack using explosives in Denmark. In October 2006, four men were charged with shooting at Oslo's synagogue and also for planning acts of terrorism against the US and Israeli embassies. And in Sweden, three were in May 2006, charged with planning an attack against the pro-Israeli Word of Life (Livets Ord) evangelical church in Uppsala.
When accounting for why the small prosperous and traditionally peaceful Nordic countries have become so susceptible to this new type of homegrown terrorism in the post-9/11 security climate, three general patterns stand out. First, Denmark, Norway and Sweden all have considerable Muslim minorities. Large-scale immigration begun after the Second World War when the Nordic countries opened up their borders for labor immigrants from southern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey. During the 1980s and 90’s, a new wave of economic, political and religious refugees arrived from the Middle East (mainly Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and the Palestinian territories) and the horn of Africa. Today there are an estimated 275.000 practicing Muslims in Denmark, 76.000 in Norway and over 300.000 in Sweden.
Furthermore, the often poorly integrated immigrant communities have systematically become dependent on government subsidies as their chief means of income. This has a resulted in a high unemployment level for non-European immigrants. In 2001, persons born outside of Sweden on average received seven times more in social security assistance than Swedish-born nationals. The figures for Denmark and Norway are close to those of Sweden. Whereas the policies of the welfare state in the short term can reduce the economic poverty of low-income takers and thus have a pacifying effect on unassimilated immigrants, the same policies tend, in the long run, to create a dependence on the state which in effect can lead to further alienation from the indigenous society.