Loving Response of Civil Society Did Not Make Headlines

When A World of Neighbours held the meeting “Keeping our humanity” in Malmö earlier this year, we spelled out the need for solidarity between us: “We wholeheartedly will choose to stand with others”, became a part of the AWON Common Ground. This fall civil society in Stockholm, Sweden, showed what standing together can do. Keeping our humanity by refusing to be a part of a hateful narrative.

Two male friends and religious leaders of different religions taking a selfie in a suburb to Stockholm.
Rev. Peter Lööv Roos and Imam Nasir Ahmad Arif took active part as faith actors, in helping keeping society calm, September 12, 2020.

In late august, Sweden ended up on the front page of many newspapers all over Europe. Headlines read Riots rock Malmö after far-right Swedish activists burn Qu’ran and Protest against Koran-burning turns violent in Sweden. Even though the “mind” behind the Qu’ran burning – Rasmus Paludan, the leader of Denmark’s extremist Hard Line party Stram Kurs – was banned from Sweden by the police, Swedish right-wing activists continued to burn and kick around Qu’rans in the street. And regrettably the provocations worked, and violence erupted.

A few weeks later the right-wing groups announced they intended to once again burn Qu’rans, this time in several places in Stockholm. But the civil society in Stockholm stepped up! In a huge effort to keep the people and the streets safe faith-based groups, municipalities, organisations, the police and youth and youth leaders engaged in preventive actions and positive alternative. And it worked! Stockholm saw no riots, no violence, not even loud demonstrations. Instead the city found new ways for civil society collaborations.

In the online newspaper mitti.se, Aram Saad, a youth leader, said afterwards: “Our young people see themselves as winners today. The Danish guy hoped there would be riots. But the youth understood – we will not give them that.” 

I feel happy reading about the response of the civil society in Stockholm, and the narrative that is created there – a narrative of hope rather than hate in times of frustration and provocation.

It is however interesting to see that in contrast to the massive media coverage of riots in Malmö, the calm, smart and loving response of the civil society in Stockholm was not reported in a single English language newspaper (that I could find). So, a reminder from Sweden – do not believe all you read about us. Possibilities are that the most beautiful actions are never reported.

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