The Swedish populist party the Sweden Democrats are no strangers to racist statements from party officials, but this time it might cost them more than usual. Not only was the statement made live on national television – the party leadership was present and did nothing to refute it.
“On this side you have people who are 100% human…” said the Sweden Democratic politician Martin Strid at this years party congress, friday november 24, “…and on this side we have people who are 100% Mahommedan”. He helpfully held up his hands to illustrate the two things you could be according to him: wholly human on the one hand and wholly Muslim on the other – all live on state television.
This is but the start of the speech that Strid held, reaching just short of a minute and a half, in which he also claims that Muslims who leave the faith “come a bit closer to becoming a human” and that it is their mission to “liberate Muslims from Islam”. Even the use of the word “Mahommedan” (“Muhammedan”), an archaic term for Muslim nowadays considered offensive in Sweden, is questionable at best.
Yet another scandal
This is not the first time such a scandal has rocked the Sweden Democrats. The latest was the sexual harassment scandal that was reported on by former Sweden Democrat Hannah Wigh and perhaps the most notable one is the so called “Iron Pipe scandal” which is almost too fantastical to be believed; several members from what at the time was the party leadership called a swedish comedian of kurdish extraction a “baboon”, a woman defending him “a whore” and a “wog lover” and, perhaps most absurdly, filmed themselves getting iron pipes to beat the comedian with after the altercation.
But one thing was different during this scandal that has rocked the boat some more; large parts of the Sweden Democratic leadership was there, including parliamentary whip and former temporary party leader Mattias Karlsson – and they did neither protest nor complain. Karlsson claimed later, as he was questioned by reporters, that he wasn’t concentrating and thus missed the speech. Björn Söder, another top name and former party secretary, now deputy speaker of the Riksdag, claims he was also not concentrating. Nor did the moderator and member of the party board Aron Emilsson, whose job it was to keep the tone acceptable during the debate, have any comment, claiming he didn’t listen to the start of the speech because of a phone call.
Martin Strid has since voluntarily left the party after several party leaders had urged him to do so, including Björn Söder who said that there was “no chance that he would be able to remain a member”.
Becoming the norm
While the reader should of course make their own judgement, I personally find it very doubtful that no one in the leadership would have listened during Strids speech and all of them been distracted during this particular moment. That a party member feels safe enough to say this during a live-sent party conference speaks to some deeper rot within the party. If this is what they can say openly, what do they say when the lights are out and the cameras off? If a local politician does not receive criticism from within the party for such speeches until it is pointed out, what does that tell us about the party? The scandals have not ebbed out, they seem rather to highten in intensity.
I would suggest that the fault lies not with individual members but with the party proper. And perhaps go even further: the problem is what the party propagates. They can never root out the racists from the party, because there would be no one left.