No issue in our modern time has divided Europe like the mass immigration of refugees and the resulting cultural divides that have emerged. Perhaps no nation has been more affected by mass migration than Sweden, where a relatively small native population has been indelibly affected by a mass influx of people with a strong, often uncompromising set of religious-based beliefs on how they, and others, should live their daily lives.
The relationship between the native, primarily white Christian Swedish population and Islamic migrants has been likened to ‘parallel societies’. With the Muslim Brotherhood pulling strings from afar, what began as a sympathetic effort to assist refugees has resulted in unabashed attempts to replace one successful, peace-loving culture with another.
The governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates all classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization which seeks to establish a global Islamic Caliphate by usurping power through political systems. A report published in March 2017 by Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), part of the nation’s Ministry of Defense, found that the cultural tug-of-war in Sweden is a zero-sum game, by design.
‘Islamists aim to build a parallel social structure competing with the rest of the Swedish society the values of its citizens. In this sense, the Muslim Brotherhood’s activists pose a long-term challenge in terms of the country's social cohesion', the report says.’ (Daily Mail)
It’s through this lens that social issues pertaining to Islamic traditions are viewed by most, not only in Sweden, but in the migrant-populated Europe more broadly. Certain iterations of the Islamic female headdress have been banned in different European municipalities. Critics of such bans argue that religious freedom is being restricted and specific groups targeted based on their religion. Proponents retort that covering part or all of one’s face is a violation of the public’s right to safety, adding that no other religion requires the rest of society to accept such radically different forms of dress.
Similarly controversial debates have centered around whether cartoonists and journalists have the right to lampoon, or even draw earnestly, the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, the vast gulf between the two sides manifested itself tragically. Even in America, where the specter of mass immigration from Middle Eastern regions has never loomed as large as it does in Europe, controversy has emerged in the past.
Yet another source of tension has emerged in Sweden, as a push to spread across the nation the Islamic tradition of broadcasting a ‘call to prayer’ over loudspeakers is gaining steam. A 2012 decision allowing a mosque in Stockholm to blast their call to prayer over a loudspeaker mounted atop a minaret serves as precedent.
‘A majority of the members of the city planning committee in the southern Stockholm suburb of Botkyrka voted on September 25 to repeal a 1994 prohibition on such prayer calls, thereby opening the way for a muezzin to begin calling Muslims to prayer from the top of a 32-meter (104-foot) minaret at a Turkish mosque in the Fittja district of the city.’ (Gatestone Institute)
Since 2012, three more cities – Botkyrka, Karlskrona and Växjö – have also seen petitions legalizing public calls to prayer succeed. There’s reason to believe that the Swedish courts, more favorable to Islam-related issues than any other country in Europe, will continue to permit the spread of these calls to prayer, so long as the volume of the loudspeaker doesn’t violate a municipality’s regulations on environmental management.
But, like every issue pertaining to the spread of Islamic culture into the mainstream, Sweden has many critics of this gradual spread of calls to prayer. A poll published in March found that 60% of 1,00 Swedes polled opposed public calls to prayer. Many also believe that not only the noise, but the content of the prayer, should be considered as part of the reason for striking down the practice.
‘The content of the Adhan prayer, from a Western point of view, is deeply problematic. Its purpose is not only a neutral call to prayer -- such as church bells, which consist only of musical notes. Here is the translation of the prayer:
"Allah is the greatest (Allahu akbar). I testify that there is no God but Allah (Ashhadu anna la ila ill Allah). I testify that Mohammed is Allah's Prophet (Ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah). Come to prayer (Hayya alas salah). Come to security/salvation. Allah is the greatest (Allahu akbar). There is no God but Allah (La ilah ill Allah)".
"Allahu akbar" means "Allah is greatest" or "Allah is greater " -- presumably meaning than other deities.’ (Gatestone Institute)
In other religions, these kinds of prayers are typically uttered within houses of worship, not among the public, and especially not over a loudspeaker for all to hear. This dichotomy emboldens those who feel that the Islamic call to prayer is not a reasonable display of religious freedom, but an indication of an unwillingness to assimilate, and a desire for non-Muslims to coalesce to Islamic traditions.
Further fortifying this view is the past precedent outlawing public religious displays. Until 2012, the call to prayer was not sanctioned in Sweden. Catholic church bells haven’t been permitted since 1993, and it’s worth noting that those bells produced only musical notes, not words that can be considered by many as exclusionary.
‘In 1993, when the Catholic Church wanted to build a tower for ringing church bells in Växjö, the municipality advised the church to refrain, as the neighbors had complained that they would be bothered by church bells.’ (Gatestone)
The increasing trend towards permitting calls to prayer, and overlooking growing influence by the Muslim Brotherhood in Sweden-based Islamic projects is concerning to many Swedes, and others who see Sweden as a cautionary tale of how not to handle immigration.
Policies of appeasement that care little about fostering assimilation and unity are forcing Islamic immigrants and native Europeans further apart as nations, Sweden in particularly, continue to be pulled apart at the seams.