Sverige med andra ögon

Journalisten Nadia Muhanna från Syria Today Magazine är på Sydsvenskan för att studera opinionsbildning i sociala medier. Och ser på Sverige utifrån – med lite häpen blick.

Här är hennes intryck:
Nadia Muhanna_Sydsvenskan

It´s 25° in Damascus and I’m packing the warmest clothes I have, happy to get away from this hot weather to cold Scandinavian Stockholm. Getting there however, I’m all in sweat again and I meet Arabs all over the city. Syrians smile at me in the shops, Iraqi waiters greet me with “marhaba”, and a Lebanese couple, who I randomly meet in an Arab restaurant serving falafel and Kebab, invites me for lunch. I almost feel home.

I quickly discover that the Swedish-Arab population’s presence in Sweden is more than loud Arab greetings and delicious falafel. They are present in the country’s political scene. Photos of Abir Sahlani, an Iraqi Swedish candidate running for the European Parliamentary elections fill the streets of Stockholm as well as small posters reading “Boycott Israel”.

An exhibition by a Swedish Arab artist in Stockholm’s Moderna Museet also touches upon important Arab issues such as the Palestinians’ right of return and movement within Palestine. In her exhibition, the artist tells how she visited houses in Israel and paid bills on behalf of Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and some Arab countries because they are not allowed into Israel to do so.

Sweden’s cultural scene is no different. Museums like the Vasa Museet have flyers in Arabic, Arab artists give regular concerts and Swedish discos’ DJs remix Arab songs.

But despite of the Arab population’s presence in Sweden’s daily political, social and cultural scene, to what extent are they actually integrated into the Swedish society?

The growing popularity of the Sweden Democrats political party that calls for the restriction of immigration and encourages the repatriation of immigrants means immigrants are not that welcomed. In fact, many immigrants suffer unemployment and segregation in Sweden.

According to Quick Response, an independent part of the Swedish Red Cross that investigates how the Swedish newsmedia report on immigration and integration issues, even those immigrants who actually have the Swedish nationality are often perceived as “others” rather than Swedes. The best way to bridge this gap between immigrants and Swedes is by a better presentation of immigrants in the Swedish media. According to Quick Response, following the Caricature Crisis, only a small percentage of people interviewed by the Swedish media were actually Muslims or Arabs.

To achieve a better understanding between the two cultures, the best way is probably for the Swedish media not to talk about the immigrants. Rather, talk to them.

Published in Sydsvenskan morning newspaper’s blog on 4 June 2009. You can see a screenshot of it here.

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