Muslims in Sweden ‘particularly at risk of discrimination’: report

Discrimination in Sweden is a “widespread issue affecting all areas of Swedish society”, according to a new report by the country’s Discrimination Ombudsman, with Muslims and people with ‘visible’ ethnicity particularly vulnerable.

The report, written in English, is titled ‘The state of discrimination 2023’ and is the first yearly report published by the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) on discrimination in Sweden.

Although discrimination can affect everyone, the report shows that the risk of experiencing discrimination is larger for some individuals and some groups of individuals depending on their individual situation and their role in society. 

It states, for example, that many children with neurological disabilities experience discrimination in school, through not being offered the support and accommodations necessary for them to achieve their academic potential.

“People who, based on their appearance, can be presumed to belong to a certain ethnicity or religion are subjected to harassment, mistrust and aggression in various contexts, such as people that wear visible signs of a certain ethnicity or religion,” it reads.

Hijabi women are more likely to experience discrimination, and job applicants with names that sound “Arabic or Muslim” are more likely to be discriminated against in recruitment, with men with Arabic or Muslim-sounding names more likely to be discriminated against on the labour market than women with similar names.


The Ideology of Anti-Muslim Racism

Anti-Muslim racism has become a central theme for right-wing demagogues in Europe and the US. Islamophobia isn’t just a bad set of ideas: it’s a product of imperialism and the destructive wars waged by the US and its allies in the Middle East.

ver the last twenty years, hostility to Muslims has become one of the central themes in political discourse throughout Europe and North America. From Donald Trump to Marine Le Pen, far-right politicians have made Islamophobia into a central plank of their campaigning platforms.

At the same time, the United States and its allies have engaged in a series of wars throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The catastrophic fallout from those wars has further strengthened anti-Muslim racism.

Deepa Kumar is a professor of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University and the author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire, a book that explores the relationship between imperial militarism abroad and Islamophobic bigotry on the home front. This is an edited transcript from Jacobin’s Long Reads podcast. You can listen to the two-part episode here and here.

The Ideology of Anti-Muslim Racism


You argue in your book that we should understand Islamophobia as a form of racism rather than as a form of religious bigotry or discrimination. Why is that distinction important, in your view?


I think that distinction is important because if you want to end Islamophobia or anti-Muslim racism, you have to understand where it comes from. I try to push back against the liberal understanding of Islamophobia, which sees it as a set of bad ideas in one’s head or a misunderstanding of Islam. Of course, it’s true that people do have bad ideas. But the central argument in my book is that empire is what produces, sustains, and is in turn fed by anti-Muslim racism.Empire is what produces, sustains, and is in turn fed by anti-Muslim racism.

That can seem a little bit abstract, so let me concretize this a little more. Since 9/11, Muslims have been targeted by the US national security apparatus. They are seen as a “suspect population.” That is why we have the mass, intrusive surveillance that has been developed. It has a longer history: surveillance and racial profiling of Muslims goes back, in the United States at least, to the late ’60s and the early ’70s. But it was very much bolstered after 9/11.

The logic here is that Muslim communities produce terrorists and therefore the New York City Police Department (NYPD) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have to go in and watch these people. These organizations go into schools, kindergartens, mosques, bookstores, and other spaces. To some people, this is just smart security policy. But you have to think about the logic of it.

Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are also responsible for political violence, just like the political violence of the perpetrators of 9/11. However, you don’t have the same corresponding systems of surveillance whereby white communities are infiltrated to gather information because those communities produce white supremacists.

Whether it’s the FBI’s model of radicalization or that of the NYPD, it’s all based on the racialization of the Muslim population and the assumption that Muslims are prone to violence. This logic is racist at the structural level. It doesn’t come from a few “bad apples.”

Races are produced at certain moments for certain goals tied to the political economy of empire. Barbara and Karen Fields describe the process of producing races as “racecraft.” Races have to be produced — they don’t simply exist in an ethereal fashion or in any objective way.


Discrimination Is Pushing French Muslim Professionals to Jobs Abroad

Natasa Jevtovic, 38, left Paris for London in 2020 suspecting she would get better job opportunities as a young Muslim woman there. Her bet paid off.

Since moving to London, the finance project manager has flourished. She’s been promoted multiple times and now earns twice as much as she did in Paris. She believes none of that would’ve happened if she’d stayed in France, where she said she often experienced Islamophobia while working at a leading French bank.

“People would use racist terms and then I would ask them to stop. The whole team would ignore me,” Jevtovic said. On at least one instance, her manager intervened and threatened her position at the company if she continued to accuse her colleagues of discrimination, she said.

relates to Discrimination Is Pushing French Muslim Professionals to Jobs Abroad
Natasa Jevtovic in London, on Feb. 1.Photographer: Betty Laura Zapata/Bloomberg

Jevtovic is part of a wave of educated Muslims who no longer feel welcome in France, especially at work, and are taking their skills where they feel they’ll be valued.

A new study by University of Lille professor Olivier Esteves reveals that a number of Muslims — mostly highly-educated white collar employees — are leaving France, contributing to a brain drain that’s increasingly plaguing the euro zone’s second largest economy. Esteves surveyed 1,074 Muslims who left France. More than two-thirds said they relocated to practice their religion more freely, while 70% said they left to face less frequent incidents of racism and discrimination.

Islamophobic attitudes have become more pervasive across the country, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population. The 2015 terror attacks in Paris, claimed by ISIS, fueled animosity toward the Muslim population, further fanned by far-right groups. Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government has since passed a series of policies it claims are to curb radical Islamic terrorism, that critics say has created a culture of hostility. Around 42% of Muslims say they have encountered religious discrimination in the country, according to a 2019 poll by market research firm 


A Review of Year 2022 From the Muslim Perspective

Year 2022 is in the rearview. At the time of this writing, some parts of the world have already said goodbye to 2022. The year 2022 was a year of turmoil and triumph, both from a global and Muslim perspective. The war in Ukraine and Iranian protests took the center stage. Rise of Islamophobia, especially in India and France continued.

I will share the highlights and the lowlights from a Muslim perspective, and will also share some personal and family events. Links to important sites, events and my own posts relevant to the post are also shared. I have relied heavily on a similar topic on a highly respected organization, Sound Vision and included some content verbatim.


In India, protests began in early January after a government-run women’s college in the coastal city of Udupi barred Muslim students wearing the hijab from classrooms, saying it was not part of the school uniform. The following month, Muskan Khan, a student who gains international headlines after her iconic rebuttal of “Allahu Akbar” to a group of men who heckled her for wearing a hijab, puts a face on the challenge stating about her choice of dress that: “It is beyond a symbol of Islam for us; it is a vessel of our self-respect.”

The United Nations declares March 15 International Day to combat Islamophobia. Introduced by Pakistan, it marks the day in 2019 when a white supremacist gunman entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 victims and injuring 40 others.

Denmark and Sweden continued their public Islamophobic expressions, in the name of “free speech”, when the Danish leader of the far-right Stram Kurs party burns a copy of the Quran in a heavily-populated Muslim area in Sweden.

In Canada, generally known for more open and tolerant society, five Muslims were injured In drive-by shooting In Toronto suburb of Scarborough. The men had finished Taraweeh prayers during the holy month of Ramadan.

Returning to India, the Islamophobia capital of the world under the nationalist Modi government, 20 Muslim-owned shops were demolished in New Delhi. The demolitions were eventually stopped after the orders from the Supreme court.


US Muslims See Rise in Islamophobia

After a six-year hiatus, U.S. President Joe Biden last week resumed the 22-year-old tradition of hosting an Eid celebration at the White House.

“Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exists,” Biden told a group of prominent Muslims.

Biden’s comments marked a significant change of tone from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who said in 2016, “I think Islam hates us.”

Trump did not host a White House Eid celebration while president, though he did issue statements marking the annual Muslim festival and invited diplomats from Muslim-majority nations to the White House for iftar dinner during Ramadan in 2018 and 2019.

FILE - President Joe Biden, left, listens as Talib M. Shareef, President and Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, speaks during a reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 2, 2022.
FILE – President Joe Biden, left, listens as Talib M. Shareef, President and Imam of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, speaks during a reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, May 2, 2022.

The shift in the White House’s tone comes at a time when U.S. Muslims fear Islamophobia is on the rise.

Last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported a 9% increase in the number of civil rights complaints it received from Muslims in the United States since 2020.

“CAIR received a total of 6,720 complaints nationwide involving a range of issues including immigration and travel, discrimination, law enforcement and government overreach, hate and bias incidents, incarceree rights, school incidents, and anti-BDS/free speech,” the report said. BDS refers to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement that seeks to advance social change through economic pressure.

Huzaifa Shahbaz, an author of the report, told VOA the rise in complaints about Islamophobia coincided with the lifting of COVID-related restrictions and the reopening of workplaces, worship centers and restaurants.

Others echo CAIR’s findings and point to other reasons as well.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen racism in the United States rise across the board as a consequence of the pandemic, the intensification of white supremacist groups, political polarization, and even though we have Trump out of the office, this rising climate of racism is still feeding the Islamophobia that exists really heavily in the United States,” said Khaled Beydoun, a law professor at Wayne State University.


American liberals are confused about Islam

On abortion, they have embraced a religion they don’t understand

With the turning tide of US abortion law has come a predictable wave of anti-religious sentiment. Fearing that repealing Roe v. Wade will bring about an authoritarian theocracy, liberals of all stripes have taken to calling out ‘Christofascism’. 

Such vengeance towards conservative Christians is nothing new, but an unexpected topic has been thrown into the latest conversations about abortion rights: Sharia Law. Being something of a culture war staple, these two words seem to trend periodically on Twitter with little impetus, but in recent days have found their way into commentary on Roe v. Wade. This started with a number of posts comparing pro-life Christians to Islamists, including one which asked ‘why does it feel like the Christian version of the Taliban is taking over America?’

Secular opponents to the pro-life stance are (not for the first time) seeing semblance between ‘Christofascism’ and Sharia Law: both are perceived as patriarchal and oppressive systems that control women’s bodies and threaten human rights, democracy and other cornerstones of their particular interpretation of ‘Western values’. 

But soon after, such comparisons were quickly met with backlash and accusations of Islamophobia. Many expressed outrage towards the conflation of the American Christian right with Islam, along the lines of the former being a patriarchal force of oppression rooted in white nationalism and the latter a minority identity which has been victimised by it. Yet most strikingly, these rebuttals were accompanied by a bold claim: that Islam, unlike oppressive and patriarchal white Christianity, in fact allows abortion. 


The Hypocrisy of American Islamophobia

This country’s security agencies continue their laser focus on monitoring Muslim Americans, even as they grossly underestimate the threat from white supremacists.

Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson excused one of the leaders of the extremist Oath Keepers organization implicated in the January 6 insurrection by describing him as “a devout Christian.” It’s safe to surmise that he wouldn’t have offered a similar defense for a Muslim American. Since September 11, and even before that ominous date, they have suffered bitterly from discrimination and hate crimes in this country, while their religion has been demonized. During the first year of the Trump administration, about half of Muslim Americans polled said that they had personally experienced some type of discrimination.

No matter that this group resides comfortably in the American mainstream, it remains under intensive, often unconstitutional, surveillance. In contrast, during the past two decades, the Department of Justice for the most part gave a pass to violent white supremacists. No matter that they generated more terrorist attacks on US soil than any other group. The benign insouciance of the white American elite toward such dangerous fanatics also allowed them to organize freely for the January 6 assault on the Capitol and the potential violent overthrow of the government.


U.S. Charities Funneled More Than $105 Million to Anti-Muslim Groups, New Report Finds

A new report revealed that organizations deemed Islamophobic by the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group received more than $105 million in donations from U.S. charities between 2017 and 2019.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a Jan. 11 report titled “Islamophobia in the Mainstream” that it studied the tax records of 50 organizations it had previously identified as the largest funders of anti-Muslim causes, and found that 35 of them were the source of a total of $105 million directed at such groups. CAIR has researched Islamophobia in the U.S. for decades and has been at the forefront of high-profile legal battles involving violations of Muslims’ religious liberties. For the purposes of its research, CAIR identifies organizations as Islamophobic if they support policies that lead to discrimination against Muslims, demean Muslims because of their religion or allege that Islam represents an existential threat to the U.S (or partner with other organizations that do).


Hate Speech: Christians, Jews join Muslims seeking action against congresswoman

Boebert was recently caught on tape telling a made-up story about riding a Capitol elevator with Ilhan Omar in order to call her a terrorist

Boebert was recently caught on tape telling a made-up story about riding a Capitol elevator with Ilhan Omar in order to call her a terrorist:

“I said, well, lookey there, it’s the Jihad Squad… She doesn’t have a backpack… so we’re good.”

Boebert also said Omar and Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib are “black-hearted, evil women”.

“It was not the first time she’s said such things about Islam. As a result, Omar is now receiving anonymous death threats”, the Christian group said.

“Muslim and Jewish civil-rights groups are now calling on House leaders to seek accountability for Boebert, who has previously suggested that only Christians should serve in Congress. Let’s join them”, the Christian group said in the petition addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader McCarthy.

“We need to show Congress that American Christians stand in solidarity with American Muslims, and tell Republican Leader McCarthy and Speaker Pelosi to formally censure Boebert”, it said.

“As grassroots Christians from across the country, we join the call of Muslim and Jewish civil rights groups who are demanding swift condemnation of Rep. Lauren Boebert’s unacceptable and un-American hatred”, the group said.

“We ask that you formally censure Rep. Boebert for her repeated verbal assaults against our Muslim siblings and against religious freedom itself. An attack on one of us is an attack on us all”, Faithful America said.


‘Welcome to our world’: Muslims see disparities and dangers in Jan. 6 probe

FILE – Violent insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump stand outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. A federal judge is questioning Donald Trump’s efforts to withhold documents from Congress related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Judge Tanya Chutkan was skeptical Thursday, Nov. 4, of attorneys for the former president who asked her to block the handover of documents to a House committee. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

Muslim comedian and radio host Dean Obeidallah doesn’t hold back when it comes to the Jan. 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol, which he calls a terrorist attack carried out by “the American version of al-Qaeda.”

“LOL!!” Obeidallah tweeted when a rioter who bragged that she’d never go to jail ended up with a two-month sentence.

“FINALLY!!!” he wrote in celebration of charges against a man who allegedly punched a police officer.

“It’s almost surreal to see the reversal,” Obeidallah said in an interview, referring to the shifting public opinion on who gets classified as a “terrorist” — a label that until recently was reserved almost exclusively for Muslim militants.

Still, like many Muslims watching the Jan. 6 investigation unfold, Obeidallah’s reaction is more nuanced than the schadenfreude of seeing White suspects in the terrorism spotlight. He and a dozen other activists and attorneys said the Justice Department’s sprawling prosecution, while a reassuring step, is also a reminder of the deep disparities that persist in terrorism cases involving Muslims.