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

“Ending the War in Yemen” Would Lead to More Bloodshed and Threaten Global Trade

Dec. 13 2018

A bipartisan movement is afloat in Congress to end American support for the Saudi-led coalition currently fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. With frustration at Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, reports of impending famine and a cholera outbreak in Yemen, and mounting casualties, Congress could go so far as to cut all funding for U.S. involvement in the war. But to do so would be a grave mistake, argues Mohammed Khalid Alyahya:

Unfortunately, calls to “stop the Yemen war,” though morally satisfying, are fundamentally misguided. . . . A precipitous disengagement by the Saudi-led coalition . . . would have calamitous consequences for Yemen, the Middle East, and the world at large. The urgency to end the war reduces that conflict, and its drivers, to a morality play, with the coalition of Arab states cast as the bloodthirsty villain killing and starving Yemeni civilians. The assumption seems to be that if the coalition’s military operations are brought to a halt, all will be well in Yemen. . . .

[But] if the Saudi-led coalition were to cease operations, Iran’s long arm, the Houthis, would march on areas [previously controlled by the Yemeni government] and exact a bloody toll on the populations of such cities as Aden and Marib with the same ruthlessness with which they [treated] Sanaa and Taiz during the past three years. The rebels have ruled Sanaa, kidnapping, executing, disappearing, systematically torturing, and assassinating detractors. In Taiz, they fire mortars indiscriminately at the civilian population and snipers shoot at children to force residents into submission.

[Moreover], an abrupt termination of the war would leave Iran in control of Yemen [and] deal a serious blow to the global economy. Iran would have the ability to obstruct trade and oil flows from both the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb strait. . . . About 24 percent of the world’s petroleum and petroleum products passes through these two waterways, and Iran already has the capability to disrupt oil flows from Hormuz and threatened to do so this year. Should Iran acquire that capability in Bab el-Mandeb by establishing a foothold in the Gulf of Aden, even if it chose not to utilize this capability oil prices and insurance costs would surge.

Allowing Tehran to control two of the most strategic choke points for the global energy market is simply not an option for the international community. There is every reason to believe that Iran would launch attacks on maritime traffic. The Houthis have mounted multiple attacks on commercial and military vessels over the past several years, and Iran has supplied its Yemeni proxy with drone boats, conventional aerial drones, and ballistic missiles.

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More about: Iran, Oil, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen