“It is a part of a trend where it has become a gain to use the criticism of Muslims as a way to gain political power,” Anna Waara, president of Swedish Muslims for Peace and Justice, told IslamOnline.net in an e-mail interview.
Jimmie Akesson, leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats party, published an opinion piece last month describing Muslims as a ‘major threat’.
“The comments that the Swedish Democrats made are worrying,” Waara said.
“More worrying is if the other established parties will take over the rhetoric of SD and use it of their own and in that way normalize it.”
Founded in 1988, SD describes itself as a nationalist movement.
Polling data shows that the far-right party has 6 percent support, their best poll result to date, which could help them get into parliament.
The party is notorious for anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant campaigns, with its manifesto describing Muslims as “seriously jeopardized the Swedish nation.”
In 2006, the party published the Danish cartoons lampooning Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) on its youth league website.
It also campaigned against any ban of the blasphemous cartoons under the claim of freedom of speech.
Waara lamented that the anti-Muslim rhetoric is even evident in Swedish media.
“The atmosphere in media has definitely changed,” she said.
“It has been normalized to talk about Muslims in a offending way.
“It is selling issues to write about Muslim terror, violence and problems with Muslim immigrants.”
Waara said despite the far-right campaign, Swedish society is still friendly to Muslims.
“It is still not as big problem in Sweden to be a Muslim,” she said.
“We still haven’t seen the discriminating laws that we see in France or Denmark for example.”
To nip the far-rightist campaign in the bud, Swedish Muslims have launched two projects to fight Islamophobia in the Scandinavian country.
“One about the Swedish identity and how the Muslim identity is not in conflict with being Swedish.
“The other one is about the Massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica that we think has been forgotten.
More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves when Serb forces overran the UN-protected Muslim enclave of Srebrenica in 1995.
“We have also created an information brochure about the peace message in Islam,” said Waara.
Muslims make up some 200,000 of the country's nine million people, according to semi-official estimates.
Leaders of the Muslim minority put the number at 400,000.
“Our role is to try to nuance the picture of Islam and Muslims, to work to broaden the image of us,” Waara said.
“We work to acknowledge the diversity among Muslims that not always is shown in Sweden.
“We want to work for peace and justice from an Islamic and democratic fundamental values according to the Qur’an and the message of Prophet Mohammad.”