The Violence in England and Sweden
What's going on in England and Sweden?
On Wednesday two men ran down an off-duty British soldier with their car and then proceeded to hack him to death with cleavers and machetes, beheading him, before delivering a rant to bystanders about Islam and the costs of violence against Muslims. The men are reportedly British citizens of Nigerian descent who converted to a violent form of Islam. I will not burden you by linking to the video of the aftermath of the murder, complete with bloodstained hands and weapons. After thinking about it, I decided I wouldn’t even post the image. The thing speaks for itself. British Prime Minister David Cameron described the attack as “an act of terror”.
British media quickly made the rounds of British mosques to secure denunciations of the horrific acts, a practice condemned by The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins on the grounds that doing so validated the political message of the attackers.
More than a thousand miles away, for the last five nights Husby, a district of Stockholm, Sweden, has erupted in violence marked by clashes with police and widespread arson. The spark that touched off the violence is said to have been that Stockholm police shot a 69 year old man who was wielding a knife, a resident of the area, dead. The population of Husby has been characterized as 80% immigrants, mostly Turks, people from the Middle East, and Somalians. They are overwhelmingly Muslims.
Denying that Islam has anything to do with the violence is fatuous but it would be equally facile to say that Islam is causing the violence. The commonality is that over the years both Britain and Sweden have brought in large numbers of immigrants who are dramatically different from the previous native populations in ethnicity, religion, and culture. That may have been done for political, economic, humanitarian, some other reasons, or some combination of all of the above. These immigrant and descended-from-immigrant populations have not been assimilated into the society at large, whether due to the society, the immigrants, or both.
At Foreign Policy Elias Groll has a very interesting post on the violence in Sweden, in which he makes a pertinent observation:
What’s happening in Husby is clearly a symptom of Sweden’s failed effort to integrate its massive immigrant population. Housing segregation is rampant in the country, and Husby is a case study in how immigrant populations have come to dominate Stockholm’s outer suburbs.
He produces a graph which clearly illustrates that immigrants have largely replaced ethnic Swedes in Husby over the period of the last thirty years. Over approximately the same period Sweden has slowly rolled back its cradle-to-grave welfare state, that trend accelerating in recent years. I don’t know what the relationship between the growing immigrant population and the changes in the welfare system might be. They might be unrelated; it might be that one caused the other; it might be that the same economic factors lie behind both.
Whatever the cause of or cure for the violence, it certainly will do little to discourage the growth of nativist, nationalist, or anti-immigrant political parties. In Britain the British National Party has grown from just a handful of voters 30 years ago to about 2% of the vote today. By comparison Labour polls less than 30% of the vote while the Tories polled about 36% in the last elections. In Sweden the Sweden Democrat Party has grown from nothing thirty years ago to almost 6% of the vote today. The Social Democratic Party got about 25% of the vote while the Moderate Party received about 30% of the vote. 2% and 6% don’t sound like much but can be pretty influential in a parliamentary system.