Torching Utopia

I have writen a new article in National Review where I explain what I belive to be the root causes of the riots in Sweden. Excerp:

“Cultural self-confidence is essential for integration, since integrating immigrants inevitably involves some willingness to assert majority culture. Furthermore, the gravitational force of a strong and identifiable national identity in fact facilitates integration, since no one can integrate into nothingness. In Sweden today, there is no roadmap to integration for immigrants, no social contract wherein Swedes accept immigrants as one of their own once certain obligations are fulfilled.

It is this contradiction between reality and elite ideology that is tearing Sweden apart. The political and media elites may love or at least pretend to love the new multiculturalist society, but polls show that the Swedish public was never particularly enthusiastic about it. A recent study found that most native Swedes never socialize with immigrants or do so only rarely. Elites can dictate policy, but they cannot force ordinary Swedes to accept immigrants who have not integrated into their culture.

From the point of view of immigrants, therefore, the Swedish state is warm and generous, but Swedish society is cold and distant. The more Sweden spends on “integrationspolitik,” the worse things appear to become. Sweden takes in more immigrants than almost any other country, but immigrants do not feel welcome here. In response to failed integration, the establishment has redoubled its efforts to push multiculturalism down Sweden’s throat, blaming the Swedish people for the failure of integrationist policies.

Keep in mind that Sweden was never an easy country to integrate into culturally. Swedes tend to be reticent, solitary, and reserved. Theirs is a complex culture, full of subtle rules and opaque codes of conduct. Lutheran Sweden is defined by strong behavioral norms enforced through social pressure. Swedes are conformist and quite intolerant of deviation from group norms, whether it’s immigrants or Swedes who break with protocol. Immigrants who do not conform to expected behaviors are looked down upon and often sense low-level hostility in their private encounters with Swedes. Icy Scandinavia was never a particularly well-chosen testing ground for the multiculturalist experiment.”

Read the whole thing.

A couple of points: Some Americans are sceptical about my claim that the riots are not driven by islam. Though Sweden has taken in many immigrants from muslim countries (perhas around 7-8 percent of the population, including the second generation), the share of the Swedish population that self-identifed as muslim in 2010 was still only 2%. Sweden differs in this regard from many other European countries.

There are three reasons for this. First, many immigrants from muslim countries were secular segments of the population, in many cases specifically fleeing islamism. This includes the large diaspora from Iran, as well as Kurdish and Turkish immigrants. A significant percentage of early migrants to Sweden were left-wing students and activists, who tend to be secular.

Second, a very high percentage of immigrants from majority muslim countries belong to the christian minority. This is in particularly true for Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. I can confidently state that the riots are not fuled by islam because many rioters are Christian Assyrian.

Thirds, Sweden is a aggresively secular society, and that rubs off. I vividly remember that my teacher in the “Religion” class in high-school asked the class if anyone believed in god. Of perhaps 20 pupils, one ethnicly Swede girl cautiously raised her hand  (I didn’t, I never believed in god even as a child in Iran, though I wish I could). The religion-teacher than proceeded to openly ridicule the poor girl for 5 minutes!

A few of the rioters chanted “God is Great”, among the many things they think its fun to chant to mark distance from Western culture. But in the television interviews the youth never bring up grieviences related to islam, they talk about other things, mainly anger towards the police and “society” in vauge general terms. Islamist don’t tend to be shy about bringing up islam.

This is not to say there isn’t a growing minority that preaches radical islam in Sweden, I suspect funded by Saudi Arabia. The point is simply that all evidence indicates that this group is distinct from the rioters.

The second point I would like to make pre-emptively is about the perception of the Swedish public towards immigration.

If you ask Swedes if they think multiculturalism is good in abstract and undefined term, or if they have a positive view of immigrant, or if diversity enriches Sweden, large majorities of Swedes say yes. This is because multiculturalism is often understood as merely tolerance and anti-racism, and Swedes are tolerant and anti-racist. If you instead ask Swedes about the contents of multiculturalism – that immigrants do not need to adjust to Swedish culture – they soundly reject it. To thake a concrete example, 85% of Swedes reject Burkas. 66% say that there are some groups of immigrants incapable of adjusting to Swedish culture. A slight majority of Swedes says that “immigrants do not integrate largely because they don’t want to”. All these polls include the immigrants themselves.

A yearly survey by the SOM-institute regularly asks if it is a good idea to reduce the immigration of refugees to Sweden. Last year, 41% of the Swedish public said that reducing immigration was good ideas and 31% that it was a bad idea. 28% didn’t take a stand. This means that a plurality of the Swedish population (the survey includes immigrants themselves) want to take in fewer refugees. Note also that this is about refugees, not family immigration which has less humanitarian significance, but which is a far more common type of immigration in Sweden than refugees.

This number is often twisted by media. They hide the 31% number and just mention that only 41% supports reducing migration in headlines such as “Swedish public supports immigration!”. This trick gives the reader the impression that 59% of the public opposes reducing immigration. This is obviously quite dishonest, but this is how Sweden works. Swedes sense they are being misled, and are the country in Europe most likely to say that the immigration debate in their country is not based on facts.

If you have other questions on or objections to the article, please comment here.