The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, which sparked a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Sweden by publishing an article accusing Israeli soldiers of plundering Palestinians' organs, has fuelled a new row by printing an op-ed claiming that Muslims pose the greatest foreign threat to Swedish society since the Second World War.
The opinion piece by Jimmie Akesson, the leader of Swedish nationalist political party, the Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna), has prompted harsh condemnations and accusations of racism from all political party leaders, including Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
Some Swedish politicians are demanding that the Sweden Democrats be denied access to parliament, and the non-profit organization Centrum mot rasism (Center against racism) has even filed a suit with the Chancellor of Justice in Sweden calling for an indictment of the political party for persecuting an ethnic group.
In his piece, Akesson warns of a near future in which Muslims have increased their presence throughout Europe, whose larger cities and capitals "in all likelihood will have a Muslim majority."
"As a Sweden Democrat I see this [growing number of Muslims] as our greatest foreign threat since World War II and I promise to do everything in my power to end this tendency when we go to the elections next year."
Akesson's main arguments against Islam are that the Koran lacks a new testament, that Muslims have a higher than average birth rate, and that the rootlessness caused by a multiethnic society is making "many second and third generation immigrants seek Islam as an identity creating, unifying force, and now we experience a process of radicalization among Muslim youth in Europe."
"Twenty years ago, I think most Swedes would have had a many difficulties believing Islam would become Sweden's second largest religion, that Swedish artists who criticize Islam would live under constant death threats, that ten or so terrorist organizations would be established in Sweden... that Swedish County Councils would spend tax payer's money cutting off the foreskin of healthy young boys... that refrigerated counters in our supermarkets would offer ritually slaughtered meat at the same time as Swedish kindergartens cease to serve pork," Akesson wrote.
In August, Aftonbladet provoked outrage in Israel for its story on transplant organ theft, a report an Israeli official branded anti-Semitic "hate porn", and that was widely denigrated as blood libel. Editor-in-Chief of Aftonbladet, Jan Helin, refused to condemn the article, as did Swedish political leaders.
Helin then hit back hard at Israel for attacking his paper's coverage, saying the article was an opinion piece that raised questions about Israel in the context of a suspected link to a U.S. case about organ trafficking. Helin denied any suggestion of anti-Semitism on the part of his paper.
He countered the Israeli accusations by saying: "It's deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table."
Before publishing the Akesson opinion piece, Helin had it carefully reviewed by a number of Sweden's leading experts on criminal law and freedom of speech and of the press. Several advised against publishing the piece, as Helin may face charges of persecution of an ethnic group.
"I take that risk and will publish the article. Jimmie Akesson's text is important because it very clearly shows on which core values the party [Sweden Democrats] that is heading to the parliament rests," Helin wrote on the newspaper's website a justification for publishing the piece. "The Sweden Democrats stand not for Nazism today, neither the humanism of [world-renowned Swedish author] Astrid Lindgren. So what do they stand for? Read Jimmie Akesson's article and ponder."