📝 From my Inner Depository Archive (first published in April 1998)
Between the years 1998 to 2002 I had a website called “Jonathan’s website on Racism/HateHurts.” It was in the infancy of Internet long before blogs and Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. But my intentions back then was to be a resource for schools and other interested in topics concerning human rights, discrimination, racism, bullying and anti-homosexuality among others. My website was entirely in Swedish with Swedish news. Let us go some 15 years back in time. Here is the April 1998 edition in translation.
Over the last few years we have seen an increase in violent crimes against various groups in society that are particularly vulnerable; immigrants, people of other ethnicities and homosexuals. The perpetrators of these crimes are neo-Nazis and racists with quite ordinary backgrounds but have chosen to embrace a hostile and misanthropic ideology.
That is the very same ideology that was expressed in the anti-Semitism and racism during World War 2. It was believed that the white, Aryan race was superior and the survivor of the fittest.
The history of organized anti-Semitism is long in our country. After World War 2 Nazism increased in Sweden, believe it or not. Anti-Semitic literature was spread all around the country. For Etymological Trivia, see bottom of the page.
A publisher from Stockholm; Einar Åberg, became a leading figure for the Swedish racism. He was also the reason why we eventually got a Hate Speech Legislation!
Mr Åberg began in the 1920’s with an awareness-raising campaign and continued until the 1960’s. In 1941 he opened a bookstore for anti-Semitic and Nazi literature in Stockholm and he also founded the “Swedish Anti-Jewish Alliance.” After a quarrel in the bookstore, mr Åberg had to take down a sign that said “No access for Jews and half-Jews.” Mr Åberg was convicted several times for unruly behaviour. Between the years 1945 and 1956 he was sentenced six times for crimes against the law of Hate Speech. The Act for which he was sentenced became known as “SL 11:7 Lex Åberg.”
NEO-NAZISM IS SPREADING
The pattern repeats in our time. In 1990, the neo-Nazi magazine “Storm” was published. That marked a new development within ideological groups. They came out in public after a period of anonymity. In 1991 VAM -Vitt Ariskt Motstånd (White Aryan Resistance) was formed. Sweden became a center for the spreading of newspapers, music, videos, t-shirts and badges with racist contents and became very soon known to the general public.
This ideology was characterised by a distinctive dress code, shaved heads, Bomber jackets, White Power music and Nazi symbols. Neo-Nazi demonstrations were held in several cities around the country, often in connection with celebrations of some old NSDAP officials. Neo-Nazis, young people in uniforms, flags and swastikas appeared on our public squares around the country, while anti-demonstrator’s stood at safe distance. Police were ordered to curb the turmoils which often ended in fights, riots and cars set on fire.
The patterns of all these demonstrations show the neo-Nazis’ calm behavior and quiet protests while counter-demonstrators scream and throwing taunts after them. A reflection one can do is the consequences of this. The problem is that neo-Nazis often gain positive reviews in the media for their “good behaviour,” while counter-demonstrators have not served as good role models. We need good role models and ideals as a vaccine against Nazism. I will return to these ideals later.
RADIO ISLAM AND THE INTERNET
Radio listeners in Stockholm could in late 1980s follow racist ideas on “Radio Islam,” broadcasting 24/7 from a local radio station. The responsible publisher for the radio show broadcasted for a couple of years his racistic propaganda without legal actions from the authorities.
Not even responsible authorities intervened immediately, but the case took many twists and turns, including protests from angry radio listeners, before their broadcasts was stopped.
Responsible for the radio broadcasts were Ahmed Rami, a notorious hatemonger who was sentenced on November 28, 1989 on 17 charges for hate speech to up to six months’ imprisonment. He was convicted of the worst crime against the Law on Hate Speech in modern Swedish legal history. At the same time, the radio station was banned from broadcasting for one year.
Soon thereafter Radio Islam was back on the air again with a new station manager in charge. The broadcasts ended abruptly after a couple of months. Since then it has all been silent around mr Rami and Radio Islam until a few years ago, when his website was found on a US based web provider. With the help from different organizations we could trace him to several web servers around the globe. Always an inch behind him! The messages of his website, translated into some 20 languages, are the same as in his radio shows. The problem with accessing racist websites is that there are still no international laws regulating content on the Internet.
[This was written in 1998, now all that has changed]
The number of home pages on the Internet is growing all the time and so do racism. Simon Wiesenthal Center in Paris has for some years located up to approximately 600 home pages with offensive content. The contents are documented and Internet providers are contacted and asked to throw out the webpages. The problem is that many pages soon reappears under other domain names.
When refugees come from all corners of the world seeking refuge in our country, political arguments easily lead to racism, although it is not originally intended. That was exactly what happened in south of Sweden in 1988. A local politician initiated the municipality to hold a local referendum on whether the city would receive 20 foreign refugees or not. Two-thirds of the residents voted No to immigrants!
This opened more ways to make racism more accepted in politics. A new right wing party, “New Democracy” formed in 1991, presented a Manifesto which said, among other things, that “Boat Refugees should immediately be rejected and returned to their home countries or transit countries.”
At the national election in 1994, the party went off with a warning that all school children will soon have to turn towards Mecca if immigration from muslim countries continues. These statements, even if they were unwisely careless in the heat of the election campaign, were very offensive and boosted prejudices and increased violence.
VIOLENT CRIMES AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS
Another large group susceptible to violence are homosexuals. Newspaper Aftonbladet wrote a series of articles in september 1997 reporting that 27 gay men had been murdered in Sweden over the past ten years. The reason: they were gays or had homosexual friends.
RFSL; the Swedish National Association For Sexual Equality, estimates that two persons each year become victims of violent crimes. But the dark figure is obviously big, because the underlying causes of violence are not always registered, only the cause of death. In many cases, murders are committed by neo-Nazis and racists. When newspaper Aftonbladet charted the murders, it was a handful of names of well known neo-Nazis who constantly appeared in police reports.
Police reports are also talking about causes of death. Of the reports it is obvious that the victims have suffered massive assaults. I have myself read several police reports and autopsy protocols. The murders are showing signs of great aggression. While I worked as a station manager on a radio station in the small town of Västerås, west of Stockholm, I heard of a teenage boy who was stabbed 64 times to death on an open street in the city of Västerås. Aware of gays being target to hate crimes investigators said that it was with certainty a hate crime in this case. It was said that each stab was lethal. The boy was a promissing hockey player in the Swedish Junior Hockey Team. The murderer said that he acted in self-defense, because the boy was said to have tried to do a sexual approach against the man. There were of course no basis for his assertions. The murder of the boy, came to open up for calls and discussions on “homophobia” within sports clubs that otherwise is known for being very anti-homosexual.
Every third homosexual man and every fourth lesbian woman claim to have been exposed to some type of violent crimes because of their homosexuality. That according to a study from Swedish Public Health Institute conducted by Criminologist Eva Tiby at Stockholm University. Note, many religious people often think that gay people die because they deserve it. That is a wrong way to face the problems and shows how perverted it is to ever believe that. Västerås was a very hostile city back then, I was warned to going out too late in the evening and people said that they were suspicious of strangers and claimed not to be so hospitable. It sounded like Sodom to me. Well, I left after two years.
Harassments, beatings and other offensive actions against people because of any inequality is unacceptable, no matter who it affects, wherever it occurs at home, in workplaces, schools or churches. To harbor contempt for someone because of race, skin colour, ethnicity or homosexual orientation is a criminal act and must be counteracted.
And now that we know that the threat is real, there is also a platform to work from. Such a platform is the magazine “Expo.” The newspaper started just recently, in 1995 as a counterbalance to racism and xenophobia in society. In the spring of 1996 a hate campaign was launched against the magazine by neo-Nazis where windows in their building were broken and the printing presses were sabotaged. Retailers and workers were threatened. These are events as taken from the 1930’s.
The Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism was founded in Oslo in 1983 and combats anti-Semitism in various ways. They have acted against Radio Islam’s racistic radio broadcasts and have also had various manifestations against racism, with the support of several organizations and artists.
The Association of Holocaust Survivors was founded in 1992 and is also nationwide. These organizations are working to provide information on Nazi crimes during World War II. They are engaged in the political debate, and have sent letters to the Government to reinforce the law on hate speech.
COURAGE TO REACT
The listed organisations are only a small part of all that can be called good examples in our country. We must have the courage to react vigorously against racism. The best way to combat racism and alienation is to let these people speak out their disgusting messages so that we all understand that this is a threat to all of us.
Censorship only increases their importance. Today, every other households in our country has access to Internet. Racism is prospering completely open, transparent and more obscured. Therefore, it is easy to be carried away by the messages.
It is appropriate to emphasise that we cannot remain silent and hope that problems will solve themselves automatically or die out. We can dismiss much of the noise from neo-Nazis, but when they deny the genocide of six million Jews, or when they are moving towards physical abuse and murder, then they have reached the limit when we no longer can mollycoddle these individuals.
THE MURDER OF JOHN HRON, 14 YEARS OLD
A beautiful summer evening in August 1995 two boys are camping at a small lake outside Gothenburg. 14 year old John and his friend will begin school again next week after a long, wonderful summer. A bit from there, four skinheads see their campfire and decide to approach the two boys…
That is the prelude to a shocking tale of the senseless violence, which led to a young boy’s death. The guilty received short prison sentences, but the effects of the cruel crime, will always be there. It can never be undone!
On Nizkor homepage, we are invited to light a candle for John, and all the others who have become victims of racism, gay bashing and everything that can be found in the darkness.
Someone once said that we should not curse the darkness but light a candle instead. I believe in two things. First light a candle for memory, then do everything within my legal right to protest and fight against this violence, wherever it may come from.
A bad way is to go into counter demonstrations whenever racists and fascists have meetings at a public square. Counter demostrations only attracts more negative attention than the racists and homophobes themselves. The racists take advantage of this as they set themselves as good examples with their quiet demonstrations. Instead, we can write letters or articles to newspapers, making websites or why not go to workshops. The most important thing is: do not be silent when you feel that you should react! The story of John is available at The Nizkor website. Nizkor is working to increase the awareness of racism and discrimination.
We make terrible mistakes against our fellow human beings if we do not react and act. Racism, discrimination and anti-homosexuality are not marginal phenomenon. This affects the whole society. In times of unemployment and recessions it can bring out the potential racist in any of us, in the same way that anyone of us can become a victim!
Do we believe that there are people out there who should not have the right to exist?
Are there people who don’t have the same rights as we?
Can I ever set me off in the belief that it does not concern me?
If I do nothing to prevent a crime, if I don’t care, then I have given my tacit approval of violence and that makes me an accomplice!
That was my article from 1998 and believe me, as I edited the text a little to fit into this blog format, all memories came back to me, all I have encountered of hatred, not being a victim myself, but by knowing people or relatives who have get hurt or killed. What I have seen and heard will never leave me.
• The murder of John Hron – Nizkor Project
• Antisemitism & Xenophobia Today (Institute for Jewish Policy Research)
• Expo Foundation
• The Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism
• The Association of Holocaust Survivors in Sweden
• Radio Islam (NOTE! Contains offensive material)
© 2012 Jonathan Axelsson
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