I visited Rinkeby today, a suburb of Stockholm 90% of whose inhabitants are of foreign origin, and where there was an incident the other night involving young men throwing stones at the police while they were in the process of arresting a suspected drug dealer. This came a couple of days after Donald Trump, in a speech, had referred to a non-existent incident in Sweden the night before, apparently involving immigrants, and which he mentioned in the same breath as recent Islamicist terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels and elsewhere. ‘Sweden!’ – spreading his arms out – ‘Who would believe it? Sweden!’ Exactly. No-one did believe it, and it was much mocked subsequently. (See https://bernardjporter.com/2017/02/19/swedish-trumpery/.)
But then came the Rinkeby incident, which, despite the inconvenient fact that it happened after his speech, was taken to justify it retrospectively. The Swedish far-Right took it up immediately, told the Americans about it, and two of them – prominent members of the nationalist Sverigedemokraterna party – even contributed an op-ed along these lines to the Wall Street Journal: https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-is-right-swedens-embrace-of-refugees-isnt-working-1487807010. A Swedish minister is due to respond within the next day or two.
Of course it’s pretty much nonsense. Crimes and mini-riots happen here in Sweden very occasionally, as everywhere, but no-where near as frequently or seriously as in the USA. It is difficult to connect them with higher immigration; their incidence has in fact declined since the Swedes started letting most of their refugees in. We don’t know the precise extent to which immigrants are involved, as the Swedish police keep no ethnic details, although of course it’s likely in Rinkeby: not only because it’s a largely immigrant community, but also because of the rate of unemployment there. I imagine that unemployed young Swedish blonds are just as likely to commit crimes or throw stones at the Polis as, say, brown-skinned Somali.
Nor can the incidence of rape in Sweden be tied to incoming foreigners, as is often claimed by the far-Rightists. (The argument is that the Moslems’ culture tolerates it more.) If Sweden has a higher number of reported rapes than other countries, that’s because of the very broad way ‘rape’ is defined here (as Julian Assange will find if he does ever consent to be extradited to Sweden), and the way rapes are reported. (For example, if a woman accuses her husband of raping her every night of the year, it’s counted as 365 crimes, rather than one, as elsewhere.) Again, statistics don’t confirm that this is an especially ‘foreign’ crime. Then again, politically- or religiously-motivated attacks – the ones Trump was referring to – are mainly the province of Swedish neo-Nazis, and directed against Islam. (I’ve witnessed one.) Trump was simply – but dangerously – wrong. Kajsa and I are very angry.
My visit to Rinkeby was quite pleasant. It’s a clean, modern and even fairly prosperous-looking suburb. There are no signs of the mayhem that happened a few nights ago. It has the same social amenities as everywhere else in this very socially-aware country. The State has put a great deal of work into looking after and integrating the refugees. Yes, everyone looks African or Middle Eastern; many of the women are in hijabs, niqabs and burkas; the young men are standing or sitting around in groups talking: but very happily, it appeared to me. They were friendly when I approached them. In fact happiness was my main impression of them, albeit a superficial one, I realise. (I wasn’t there long.) But of course why wouldn’t they be happy, after what so many of them had gone through before arriving?
I talked with one or two of them. They had no idea that their suburb had made such an impression internationally, and were surprised. Yes, the other night’s incident was bad, a couple of cars were damaged and some shop windows smashed, but no-one was seriously injured, and it was soon over. It seemed to be no big deal. Certainly not big enough to fuel Trump’s and the Right’s paranoid anti-immigrant agenda; nor to be worth taking up column-inches in the prestigious Wall Street Journal.