STOCKHOLM – Recent riots in northern Stockholm following a fatal shooting of an old man are raising fears among Swedish Muslims that the violence would pour into the benefit of far-right, anti-immigrant parties to accelerate their hostile campaigns.
"It is tragic,” Rahimzadagan Abdolsaheb, 49, an Iranian-born taxi driver, told Reuters.
“This is not good for us as immigrants. It becomes harder for us to live here.
"There will surely be more racism because of this."
The largely immigrant suburb of Husby in northern Stockholm was rocked by riots earlier this month following the fatal shooting of a 69-year-old man by the police.
The riots have involved several hundred people, and have resulted in the injury of at least seven police officers.
The riots, where many youths torched cars and threw stones at police and rescue services, have raised questions about intolerance and integration in the Scandinavian country.
The violence comes amid increasing sentiments against immigrants in the naturally tolerant country.
Reflecting a hardening in rhetoric, pro-immigration Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt described the riots as "hooliganism".
It comes after Immigration Minister Tobias Billstrom broke government ranks earlier this year to say that Sweden's intake of immigrants was "not sustainable".
Billstrom said people protecting illegal immigrants were no longer "blonde and blue-eyed" but fellow migrants exploiting cheap labor.
The concerns coincide with growing worries about employment, with heavy job losses in the car industry and at companies including Ericsson and airline SAS.
Sweden has opened its doors to immigrants for decades.
In 2012, some 43,900 asylum seekers arrived, a nearly 50 percent jump from 2011 and the second highest on record. Nearly half were from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia and will get at least temporary residency. There was a total of 103,000 new immigrants.
Some 15 percent of Sweden's population is foreign born, the highest in the Nordic region.
Muslims make up between 450,000 and 500,000 of Sweden’s nine million people, according to the US State Department report in 2011.
Analysts expect that the riots will benefit anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party to secure more political clout in next year’s elections.
"It will be a step to increasing polarization on the issue of integration in Sweden," said Andreas Johansson Heino, a political scientist at Sweden's Timbro think-tank.
"These kinds of things benefit parties like the Sweden Democrats."
Across the Nordic region, anti-immigration parties, which languished after Norwegian far-rightist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in 2011, are gaining support.
In Denmark, the Danish People's Party, a power broker in the last coalition, has gained amid an unpopular left-of-center government.
In Norway, the Progress Party, hit by sex scandals that also eroded its image, is now the third largest party.
The Sweden Democrats have also advanced in voter surveys to nearly 10 percent from 5 percent at the last election in 2010.
Before the riots, a poll by Novus showed around 20 percent of Swedes believed the Sweden Democrats had the best immigration policy.
This has raised concerns among Sweden’s mainstream parties about tightening immigration policies if Sweden Democrats come to power.
But some analysts believe that Sweden's asylum policies will remain intact despite disturbances.
"The government and opposition have made it very clear ever since the Sweden Democrats got into parliament it would not in any way affect Swedish immigration," said Ulf Bjereld, professor of political science at Gothenburg."They have kept their promise."
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