CAIRO – Members of Stockholm mosque who were shocked last week by graffiti of swastikas on their worshiping house’s doors arrived early on Monday, January 7, to another surprise, though it was a nice one this time.
“I thought society was moving the wrong direction. But now my view changed 180 degrees,” Omar Mustafa, chairman of the Swedish Islamic Association, told The Local.
“Members of the congregation arrived for the morning prayer at 7am and called me saying there were flowers on the mosque.
“They sent me a picture and I felt strength and encouragement in a whole new way,” he added.
Mustafa was still taken by the good surprise when they found bouquets of pink and white flowers taped over the black swastikas, which were drawn last Thursday on the mosque doors.
Muslims have also found a note of solidarity tied to the door.
"For every hate crime there is a flower," the sign read. "An attack on you is an attack on Sweden! We stand together!"
Flowers were also placed outside the mosque in Fittja, which had its windows smashed and pig feet tossed in back in November, as well as a Hagsätra church which had also been vandalized with swastikas last Friday.
Thursday’s attack is not the first to target the mosque in central Stockholm.
Opening its doors in 2000, mosque had been vandalized before, but not with swastikas, representatives said. "We’re used to receiving hateful emails and letters, so they’re not abnormal. But they also don’t feel so real," Mustafa mused.
"But I’ve never seen something like this before, right on the front door. It was a very strong message of hate."
The attack followed close on the heels of a neo-Nazi attack in the suburb of Kärrtorp, which was later met by a display of solidarity when more than 16,000 Swedes gathered to peacefully demonstrate against racism.
Muslims make up between 450,000 and 500,000 of Sweden’s nine million people, according to the US State Department report in 2011.
The Quiet Majority
The chairman of the Swedish Islamic Association said he hopes that the flowers were a sign that the quiet majority was finally willing to speak against hate and racism.
"We know that a majority of people in Sweden are against hate and racism. But the majority is also very quiet," Mustafa said.
“What was surprising this time was that the majority actually acted, in solidarity, support, and love.”
The anti-immigrant tone is drawing criticism in Sweden, a country known for its history of tolerance.
In 2013, around 300 hate crimes against Muslims were reported in Sweden, and such incidents are on the rise according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet).
"Hate is becoming more and more open, and 2013 was a very difficult year," he said.
"There were a lot of debates about racism, and many were very negative. I am very afraid that racist parties and movements will win more seats and become a bigger part of decision-making, as we’ve seen in Denmark and Norway. But I hope this kind of action helps more and more people take action."
The images of flowers were posted on the social media, garnering attention and support in Sweden as well as abroad.
"When you get this kind of support in flowers or social media, you suddenly feel that you are not alone," Mustafa told The Local.
"It’s proof that society is not racist on the whole. I don’t think that the flowers will knock out racism, but it is a strong message. And I think more and more people are lifting their voices against racism and taking action, and I think more and more will."
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