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About-Face: Swedes Begin to Lose Faith in Multiculturalism

© AFP 2023 / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND Women pass by a life vest and a placard reading "Borders kill" hanging on a tree in Stockholm as part of an action by Swedish branch of humanitarian NGO Doctors without borders, in solidarity with migrants seeking asylum in Europe after fleeing their home countries on September 14, 2015
Women pass by a life vest and a placard reading Borders kill hanging on a tree in Stockholm as part of an action by Swedish branch of humanitarian NGO Doctors without borders, in solidarity with migrants seeking asylum in Europe after fleeing their home countries on September 14, 2015 - Sputnik International
Contrary to their public image of tolerance and equality (as well as their government's multicultural ambitions), Swedes seem to have had enough of ongoing immigration. In particular, a recent study has revealed that Swedish women are losing their faith in the widely-advertised multicultural society.

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Two years ago, 74 percent of Swedes proudly admitted they were in favor of more diversity in their society. This year, the percentage of yay-sayers dropped to 64 percent, its lowest level in the ten years the so-called "diversity surveys" have been conducted. Meanwhile, the proportion of foreign-born nationals rose to 17 percent in Sweden in 2015 and is expected to climb further.

According to this year's "Diversity Barometer," a poll conducted by the University of Gävle, nine out of ten respondents were convinced that it was the immigrants' duty to adapt to Swedish customs and traditions, and every other Swede thought that immigration threatened "Swedish values." In particular, immigrant men were regarded as a threat to Sweden.

Remarkably, 64 percent of all respondents agreed that criminal immigrants "should be forced to leave the country." Furthermore, only 55 percent of respondents agreed that immigrants who come to Sweden should automatically gain access to Swedish welfare on the same conditions that Swedes do.

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According to Sociology Professor Fereshteh Ahmadi and Associate Professor Irving Palm, the men behind the report, the souring of attitudes towards diversity was particularly evident among women and middle-aged respondents. According to Ahmadi and Palm, this is particularly worrying, since women overall tend to be more supportive of diversity than men. In particular, Swedish women proved to have a tougher stance than men with regards immigrants who committed crimes in Sweden.

"These are dark figures. In Sweden, human rights and obligations have always been important pillars to support the community. These figures reflect a change in our values. It is not just about xenophobia as such, but about a spread of this ideology," Fereshteh Ahmadi told Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, citing the Swedish media's "exaggerated" and "biased" reporting of rapes at summer festivals and social problems in troubled suburbs.

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Another remarkable detail, unveiled by this year's "Diversity Barometer" is that opposition towards immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, which constitute the majority of last year's "bumper crop" of 163,000 asylum-seekers, is the highest.

Only five percent accepted Arabs and Africans as "identical or very similar" to Swedes, whereas nine out of ten said they did not want such immigrants as neighbors. Many specified that they would move out if too many immigrants from the Middle East or Africa moved into the apartment building they lived in. Predictably, Swedes' Nordic brethren, the Norwegians and Danes, were esteemed as the most welcome neighbors.

"We believe that the change of the political climate regarding immigration in general, and the new arrivals, in particular, may have influenced the Swedes' perception of diversity. We are witnessing this development in many parts of the Western world, with extreme right-wing and even racist trends emerging," a worried Fereshteh Ahmadi told Swedish science magazine Forskning.

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In recent decades, Sweden has, with unrelenting fervor, pursued two seemingly contradictory goals — feminism and diversity. This task has proved increasingly difficult to maintain, as Sweden's "open doors" policy attracted a large number of representatives from patriarchal Islamic societies in the Middle East, for whom feminism just does not come naturally. Earlier this year, even the Swedish Green Party, one the country's most ardent proponents of multiculturalism and equality alike, had to admit that something had gone wrong.

"We have found it difficult to deal with cultural clashes of a certain kind; we have found it difficult to handle the combination of diversity and feminism," Green Party spokesman Gustaf Fridolin admitted, as quoted by the Swedish news outlet KIT.

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