Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Swedish elite is in a tizzy

Despite all their efforts to starve it of publicity, an anti-immigration party now hold the balance of power in the Swedish parliament

A far-right group’s election breakthrough has shattered Sweden’s self-image as a bastion of tolerance, somehow inoculated against the backlash on immigration seen elsewhere in Europe.

Sunday’s ballot showed the country’s welcome to refugees is not universally accepted: nearly 6 per cent of the population voted for a nationalist group that accuses immigrants — especially Muslims — of eroding Sweden’s national identity and its cherished welfare state.

It’s a bitter pill for a nation that frowned upon Denmark’s vitriol toward Muslim immigrants, Swiss attempts to ban minarets and France’s crackdown on Gypsy camps. “The banner of tolerance has been hauled down and the forces of darkness have finally taken the Swedish democracy hostage, too,” the Expressen tabloid wrote in a post-election editorial. “It’s Monday morning and time for Swedes to get a new self-image,” read a bold front-page headline in Svenska Dagbladet.

Hardening attitudes toward immigrants have helped far-right radicals gain influence in other western European countries, including Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark. The U.S. also has seen a backlash, underscored by the uproar over plans to build an Islamic centre near Ground Zero in New York and Arizona’s attempts to get tough on illegal immigration.

But Sweden became barren ground for such groups after the sudden rise and fall of a right-wing populist party in the early 1990s. Since then Swedes have dealt with immigration issues delicately, at times even apologetically.

When a mainstream political party eight years ago suggested basic Swedish skills should be mandatory for Swedish citizenship — an uncontroversial requirement in many other countries — it was accused of catering to xenophobes.

Swedish leaders lashed out at Scandinavian neighbour Denmark for sharply tightening immigration in 2002, and reacted with horror to the anti-Muslim statements by leaders of the nationalist Danish People’s Party.

That helped cement Sweden’s reputation as being a haven for immigrants, and was one the reasons the nation of 9.4 million attracted more Iraqi refugees following the U.S. toppling of Saddam Hussein than any other in the West. To many that era is over with the election of the Sweden Democrats to Parliament.


New from the CIS

1). Amnesty Inroads Among Evangelicals

Excerpt: Research demonstrates that elites and the rank-and-file in many segments of society (e.g., business, religion, organized labor) are split over immigration issues.1 Elites tend to manifest post-American, cosmopolitan ideologies, while their grassroots members preserve deep-seated patriotic beliefs and attitudes, including with regard to immigration.

2). Jon Feere discusses birthright citizenship Video

3). On the CIS blog:

(Recent entries on the CIS blog are here. The CIS main page is here.)

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A National Immigration Auction, Part I: A Very Bad Idea

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