Immigration Tensions in Scandinavia

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Not only today, but from the 1950s onwards, Scandinavia began to receive its first immigrants –«Guest workers» from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia, and political refugees from Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia.

Initially immigrants received a warm welcome, but the growing number of foreigners, particularly from Muslim countries, led to a steady rise in the popularity of mainstream eight-wing, anti-immigration political parties across Scandinavia.

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The past 25 years have also seen an increase in activity by the extreme right wing, apprehensive over jobs and the perceived threat to traditional Nordic culture.

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The debate over Muslim immigration and integration reached a head when the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published cartoons, some of them depicting the Prophet Muhammad, as a way of stimulating debate on the place of Islam within Western democracies. Their publication caused widespread offence across the Muslim world.

Early this year Sweden has made global headlines after unknown suspects torched three mosques in different parts of the country. Coupled with a growing anti-immigrant sentiment flowing from the increasingly popular nationalist Sweden Democrat party, the head of Sweden’s Islamic Association said things were getting worse.

Anna Lindh
Anna Lindh

Minister for Foreign affairs, Anna Lindh was killed on 11 September 2003.


22 July 2011, the far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik bombed Oslo, and the gunned down dozens of young people on the island of Utøya. His rationalization for the atrocity was to stop the “Islamisation” of Norway: that the Norwegian left had opened the country’s doors to Muslims and diluted its Christian heritage.

Norway’s response, however, was not retribution, revenge or clampdowns. “Our response is more democracy, more openness and more humanity,” said prime minister of that time, Jens Stoltenberg.

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Mullah Krekar is a notorious figure in Norway, having survived an assassination attempt, made a threat against Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg and praised the January attack on Charlie Hebdo. (Photo : Twitter Photo Section)

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What has happened? Christianity is evidently diminishing, but the new faith that has arisen is multiculturalism. As you watch the morning commuter trains or buses unload, at least four out of every ten non-tourist passengers appear to be non-native. A significant number of the capitals’ bus- and train-drivers and other uniformed personnel appear to be Africans, many of Middle Eastern origin.

Immigration Tensions in Scandinavia, written by Tor Kjolberg