A local politician from the far-right Sweden Democrats argued during an election debate on Thursday that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to practice their faith in Strömsund in northwestern Sweden.
“I don’t think someone should be allowed to be a practicing Muslim in Strömsund,” Sweden Democrat Mikael Säbom said on Thursday during a live election debate broadcast on Sveriges Radio Jämtland.
Since 2006, the town of just over 4,000 residents has taken in scores of Muslims from Uzbekistan in the wake of a 2005 crackdown by Uzbek government troops in Andijan in which hundreds of protesters were killed, although the exact number of casualties remains in dispute.
At the time of the incident, known as the Andijan massacre, the Uzbek government claimed the demonstrations were organized by the Islamic radicals.
Strömsund has seen a rise in hate crimes, from racist graffiti to the burning down of a mosque in the city two years ago.
Säbom, who stands at the top of the Sweden Democrats’ list of candidates for election to the local council, later refused to elaborate on his comments when approached by the newspaper.
A spokesperson from the Sweden Democrats headquarters in Stockholm claimed that Säbon’s comments had been “misinterpreted”, but added that the party stands behind the politician’s argument.
One of Strömsund’s estimated 150 practicing Muslims who wished to remain anonymous told Aftonbladet he’s “very worried” about the Sweden Democrats gaining seats in the Riksdag.
The party’s number two candidate in Strömsund, Peter Dahlsted, nevertheless remained upbeat about the Sweden Democrats’ prospects, claiming that the influx of Muslims from Uzbekistan was a major driver for growth in the party’s support locally.
“Many come up to us and dare to say what they think,” he toldAftonbladet. “It mostly has to do with the Uzbeks; that they’re disruptive in one way or another.”