Sweden’s Anti-Immigrant Backlash Turns against Religious Education

March 19 2018

The Swedish government is currently considering a law that would require the country’s 71 private religious schools either to close their doors or to undergo dramatic secularization—even though religious instruction in such schools is already subject to tight legal restrictions. Seeing the proposed law as a response to growing fears over the impact of Muslim immigration, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein argues that it functions as a way to avoid more difficult conversations:

The proposed new law is superfluous. Plenty of legislation to protect Swedish children from religious indoctrination already exists. . . . [Even under existing law], there is in fact no religious education in Swedish schools—it is legal only outside the state-mandated curriculum—and so there is no religious education to outlaw. What the state would now outlaw, however, should the proposed legislation pass, is the opportunity for Christian, Muslim, and Jewish children to feel part of a group they can identify with, to learn about their religious and cultural heritage, and to partake of a value system that isn’t built on a belief in the almighty state, blessed be its name.

The proposed legislation is based on fear, ignorance, and an astounding lack of national identity. As we all know, it is much easier to outlaw liberty—this has always been Sweden’s default choice—than to struggle with the questions it raises and the perils it poses. The real reason that the [reigning] Social Democrats are proposing their new law and that most other major political parties are supporting it is that they dare not speak the name of what they really fear. . . . The reaction against religious schools stems from a general unease not about having Swedish culture taken [away], or even about abandoning it or giving it away, but rather about not knowing what it was to begin with. . . .

Along with most of postwar Europe, Sweden deems patriotism, national identity, and religion obsolete, scoffing at all three and embracing a new ideology based on a secular striving for liberal consensus. [But] it has become painfully clear to us over the past few years that those values and ideas are still vital, no matter how emphatically we may deny and denounce them.

If there were such a thing as Swedish values and if they were clearly defined for any immigrant, regardless of religion, we could have a society of Swedish Jews, Swedish Muslims, and Swedish Christians living side by side, as strangers and neighbors, in true liberal fashion. If we dared have a social contract whereby we agreed to obey Swedish law without exception, we could release ourselves from the weight of the state and enjoy the freedom that Sweden is famous for but never really was able to deliver.

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More about: Europe, Freedom of Religion, Immigration, Politics & Current Affairs, Sweden

 

A University of Michigan Professor Exposes the Full Implications of Academic Boycotts of Israel

Sept. 26 2018

A few weeks ago, Professor John Cheney-Lippold of the University of Michigan told an undergraduate student he would write a letter of recommendation for her to participate in a study-abroad program. But upon examining her application more carefully and realizing that she wished to spend a semester in Israel, he sent her a polite email declining to follow through. His explanation: “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel in support of Palestinians living in Palestine,” and “for reasons of these politics” he would no longer write the letter. Jonathan Marks comments:

We are routinely told . . . that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study-abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the [Michigan] student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights [and] freedom and to prevent violations of international law.”

Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney-Lippold could have found out by using Google. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent “resistance” but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.

That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an international day of solidarity with the “new generation of Palestinians” who were then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis—all civilians—dead.

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More about: Academia, Academic Boycotts, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Knife intifada