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

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy