Sweden and immigration: When populists have a point

“This type of criminality has become part of everyday life,” a local politician of Turkish descent recently wrote of the violence in Rinkeby. “The police don’t have control over the area. That’s not fake news.”

Talking honestly about such facts is very much a taboo in Swedish society; there’s even a term—åsiktskorridor, meaning “opinion corridor”—to describe the self-imposed code of silence adopted by the press and political elite. “When Swedish media reported that the overwhelming number of suspects in [the 2015 mass sexual assaults in Cologne] were migrants, it was a break with established guidelines: Unlike in Germany, media in Sweden only rarely report the ethnicity of suspected or even convicted criminals,” writes the Swedish journalist Paulina Neuding. She reports of a chill in Swedish society, with fewer women visiting community pools and other public venues due to a spate of sexual assaults by migrant males. Conspicuously missing from the strident defenses of Sweden’s multiculturalist experiment is any perspective from the Jews of Malmö, those few who are left, anyway.

The hesitation to address these issues honestly—and to instead sneer and ridicule like so many have done in response to Trump—is one of the main reasons why an anti-immigrant party with neo-Nazi roots, the Sweden Democrats, has surged to become the country’s second most popular. When, until very recently, there is only one political party willing to limit immigration—a view supported by a sizeable portion, if not plurality, of the Swedish public—it should come as no surprise that said political party would benefit from this abdication by mainstream politicians. Nor is the gap between public and elite attitudes on immigration just a Swedish phenomenon; according to a recent survey conducted by Chatham House, majorities in 8 of 10 European countries oppose all immigration from Muslim countries, the same position Donald Trump enunciated during his successful campaign.