[A mosque in Södermalm Sweden was covered in Nazi graffiti on New Year’s day, 5 days locals placed a bouquet of flowers over the swastikas.]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
Swedish Muslim leaders haves praised the reaction of “the quiet majority” after Islamophobic graffiti on a mosque was covered by flowers.
The doors of a mosque in Södermalm were covered in Nazi graffiti on New Year’s day. Five days later worshippers arrived to find a bouquet of flowers taped over the swastikas with a note of solidarity.
“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 on January 3.
Chair of the Swedish Islamic Association, Omar Mustafa, said his pessimistic views of society had “changed 180 degrees”. Speaking about the discovery of the bouquets he said, “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.”
“We’re used to receiving hateful emails and letters, so they’re not abnormal. But they also don’t feel so real. But I’ve never seen something like this before, right on the front door. It was a very strong message of hate.” Mustafa mused
The mosque had been vandalised before, but not with swastikas, representatives said. 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.
Mustafa said he hopes such actions against racism will encourage others to speak up.
“We know that a majority of people in Sweden are against hate and racism. But the majority is also very quiet. What was surprising this time was that the majority actually acted, in solidarity, support, and love,” Mustafa said.
According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention around 300 Islamophobic crimes were reported in Sweden last year.
Innumerable crimes also go unreported due to fears that media exposure will increase hate crimes. And Mustafa fears things may get worse before they get better, especially with Swedish elections coming up this fall.
“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.”
Mustafa and others posted images of the flowers on social media sites, which went viral and garnered national and international support.