Until a decade or two ago, Sweden, the Nordic country in Northern Europe, was considered one of the safest European destinations. But last year, a German newspaper, Bild, headlined that “Sweden is the most dangerous country in Europe”. Today, the country is the second most dangerous country in the number of crimes committed with firearms, just behind Croatia.
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Unregulated immigration and the European left’s infatuation with romantic doctrines like multiculturalism have turned Sweden into a cesspool of gangsterism and violence in just two decades. Sweden has been ruled by a left-leaning, social democratic government for nearly 30 of the past 40 years, including the past eight. Unlike its neighbors – Finland, Norway and Denmark – which took a tough stance against immigration, Sweden’s rulers allowed the influx of immigrants. The result was that in a country of 10 million people, one in five people is an immigrant, an unusually high number for any European country.
Sweden’s left-wing leadership is now feeling the heat. After a series of riots by immigrant gangs rocked the country over the Easter holiday in mid-April, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson admitted that decades of romance with multiculturalism only resulted in failure to integrate immigrants into Swedish society.
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“Segregation has gone so far that we have parallel societies in Sweden. We live in the same country, but different realities. Integration has been poor and at the same time we have had intense immigration,” Andersson lamented.
Conner Rousseau, a prominent leader of Belgium’s Vooruit (a left-wing social democratic party), sounded the alarm when he said multiculturalism had failed. “When I drive in certain regions, I don’t feel like I’m in Belgium,” complained Rousseau recently.
Leaders like Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron have held similar views for many years. Merkel has called multiculturalism a “lie of life” and a “sham” because it has led to “parallel societies”. After a series of attacks rocked his country, Frenchman Emmanuel Macron came out strongly against Muslim separatism, promising to take action against foreign training of imams and the imposition of halal menus in cafeterias. “Our model is universalist, not multiculturalist,” Macron argued.
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The question of the integration of immigrant Muslims into mainstream societies as equal citizens preoccupies many countries today. The growing lawlessness, street violence and gangsterism, the meteoric growth of madrasas and Arab schools, the increasing insistence on speaking Arabic, the wearing of the burqa from head to toe and the occupation of large public spaces for daily prayers were seen by many in the West as deliberate acts of defiance of nation-state ideology.
All this leads to a rise of right-wing reactionary politics in several European countries. But Islamists and their apologists refuse to address the issue of integration. Instead, they label the reaction xenophobia or Islamophobia. The Islamic bloc even managed to pass a resolution at the United Nations against so-called Islamophobia. Amb. Tirumurthy, Permanent Representative of India to the UNGA, forcefully pointed out that all religions are victims of various phobias and therefore no religion can claim exclusive victim status in the name of Islamophobia.
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More importantly, this policy of victimization should not prevent Islamic society from turning seriously inward. Macron’s important suggestion to remake religion itself into an “Islam of Enlightenment” should be the need of the hour.
Christianity had undergone a similar reform centuries ago, the first trigger of which was Martin Luther’s revolt against the Catholic Church in 1517 through a document known as The Ninety-Five Theses. The time has come for Islam to have its reformation.
One country that presents an interesting and emulating example is Indonesia, which also happens to be the largest Muslim country in the world. Indonesia has largely insulated its approximately 240 million Muslims from radical Islamist ideologies. It is also the third largest democracy in the world, which proves that Islam and democracy can go hand in hand.
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Besides its progressive leadership, from President Sukarno down to descendants, one organization that played a central role in this reformist crusade was the Nahdlatul Ulama NU, the largest Muslim body in Indonesia. From 1926, the NU grew into a 90 million member strong organization over the decades and its leadership fearlessly championed the cause of Islamic reform.
The NU Central Council recently issued documents that insisted that Muslims embrace the concept of nation-state instead of caliphate. He declared the modern nation-state to be theologically legitimate and enjoined its Muslim citizens to be patriotic. “Muslims must obey the laws of any modern nation-state in which they dwell,” he insisted. In a historic move, he decreed that there was no legal category of infidels (kafir) within the modern nation-state. “Muslims have a religious obligation to promote peace rather than automatically wage war on behalf of their co-religionists, whenever conflict erupts between Muslim and non-Muslim populations anywhere in the world,” the document advises.
NU’s efforts under the progressive leadership of its President Pak Yahya Cholil Staquf are significant because Islam faces a serious perceptual challenge due to specific theological interpretations such as Ummat, Kufr, Jihad, etc. and the resulting acts of exclusivism and terrorism. Muslims around the world are facing it. Unless serious efforts for greater integration along NU lines are made, the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims is bound to widen.
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Fundamentalism begets fundamentalism. In India and Europe, Islamist exclusivism gives rise to anti-Islamist radicalism. Just as radicalized Islamists have seriously tarnished the image of Islam, radicalism in the name of opposing Islamism can also impact the image of others. the Swastika is a sacred Hindu symbol of divinity and spirituality. But Hitler’s abuse brought him ignominy. Secularism is a noble political principle. But years of misuse by India’s political establishment have reduced it to a parochial idea. If a similar thing were not to happen to noble philosophies like Hindutva, radicalism must be curbed.
The fight against Islamic radicalism should be a serious reformist exercise for the enlightened citizens and governments of the world, not the domain of lumpen elements. Otherwise, as Gandhi said, the Old Testament command “an eye for an eye” will leave the whole world blind.