On Friday, 17 November, I attended a book launch in Stockholm: The Return of the Caliphate: Reasons and Consequences, by Magnus Norell. The event is recorded on Youtube. (All proceedings were in English).
The launch event was a panel-led seminar discussing the rise of the Islamic State, what effects it has had for the Middle East and for us in the West, and why the military demise of the movement will not mean the demise of the ideological forces behind it.
I took the Green Line Metro to St.Eriksplan and walked the few, long blocks to the venue. I entered a small doorway to a short but steep passage to a cellar which had long ago been converted into a community theater. Upon descending the worn, concrete steps, I immediately noticed a tall, strong-looking man eyeing me pleasantly and carefully from in front of a curtain which hid the auditorium. I apparently passed muster, despite my looking somewhat peculiar in wearing my Greek fisherman’s cap.
After having my name checked off the attendance list, I began orienting to the surroundings: coat rack, toilet, coffee urn, needing constantly to elbow my way through the tightly-packed and pleasantly noisy crowd. I spotted two more security men, with earpieces, calmly surveying the crowd.
Why should a public discussion of current events, and opinion thereon, require the presence of at least three security guards—in a country which prides itself in the support of free speech for all? Am I being silly in asking this question? If so, why?
The theater auditorium filled with around 75 people. Our host was Johan Westerholm, Editor and publisher of Ledarsidorna.se (“Editorial Pages”), the sub-head or motto of which is “Alltid I Opposition” (“Always in Opposition”). The members of the panel and their credentials are listed at the end of this article.
To prepare for the event I asked the Internet about Magnus Norell and found this published report: The Muslim Brotherhood in Sweden. This paper begins by quoting Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood:
Allah is our goal, the Prophet is our leader, the Quran is our constitution, Jihad is our way, and death for Allah is our most exalted wish.
The report was Commissioned by MSB (Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency), December 2016. Magnus Norell was editor, with Aje Carlbom, Ph.D. & Pierre Durrani, B.A.). It is a scholarly paper, with its sources cited. Here is a slightly edited (for brevity) version of its conclusion:
The European Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) political-religious work has been built into an “integration model” that is difficult for politicians and others to resist, because it can easily be interpreted in terms of standard integration efforts. It is also difficult to oppose something that on the surface appears as religious rights (of a vulnerable minority).
If one opposes the MB’s communitarian approach, one also runs the risk of being branded a “racist” or an “Islamophobe,” and, given the current state of affairs in Swedish society, such classifications may jeopardize people’s careers.
Basically, Islamists are building a parallel societal structure that competes with the rest of society over Swedish citizens’ value systems. In this way, the MB’s activists constitute a long-term challenge in terms of the country’s social cohesion.
The formation of enclaves of the type advocated by the MB will probably also create problems for Swedish society’s ability to conduct an effective integration policy. Migration from Africa and the Middle East is likely to continue in the coming years, both in terms of family-based immigration and asylum seekers. In this perspective, the MB’s parallel Islamic sector may function as a competing societal structure in relation to established secular society.
Given that the MB’s goal is to increase the number of practicing Muslims in Sweden and Europe, it is highly likely that there will be a “tug of war” between mainstream society and Islamic society under the auspices of the MB concerning what basic norms should apply to Swedish citizens. The MB’s Islamization efforts are likely to cause major political and social tensions in the Swedish nation state.
The paper elicited a strong public reaction:
In that the other panelists, and Dr. Norell in his Book’s title, refer to the (new) Caliphate, I looked to Wikipedia to learn more:
On 29 June 2014, ISIL announced the establishment of a worldwide caliphate. Al-Baghdadi was named its caliph, to be known as “Caliph Ibrahim”, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was renamed the Islamic State (IS).
My next search was to find what, if any, connection there may be between the new Caliphate and the Muslim Brotherhood:
Muslim Brotherhood Leader Reaffirms ‘Islamic Caliphate’ Ambition. Here is from this newspaper article:
In an effort to reinvigorate the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the group’s leaders — Magdy Shalash — reminded supporters that the organization’s main objective is establishing an “Islamic Caliphate” based on “Sharia” law.
“The Muslim Brotherhood was established for a general overall purpose, namely, the return of the comprehensive entity of the Umma (Muslim community)… the Islamic Caliphate, which is based on many Sharia proofs,” Shalash wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday that was translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).
While many Islamist apologists attempt to defend the use of terms like “caliphate” or “jihad” as purely religious and peaceful concepts, Shalash does not try to hide the Brotherhood’s true colors
With this as background, I am now ready to read The Return of the Caliphate: Reasons and Consequences. A copy of the book was given, gratis, to those who attended the panel discussion.
Reminder: The whole panel discussion with Q&A, is recorded on Youtube.
The author of the book being launched, Dr. Magnus Norell, Adjunct Scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington DC and a Senior Fellow at The European Foundation for Democracy in Brussels.
Dr. David Pollock who served previously as senior advisor for the Broader Middle East at the U.S. State Department, a post he assumed in 2002. In that capacity, he provided policy advice on issues of democracy and reform in the region, with a focus on women’s rights.
Dr. Göran Adamson, Guest Professor at the Center for European Studies, Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, and Senior Lecturer at West University, Sweden. His most recent book is The Trojan Horse – A leftist Critique of Multiculturalism in the West.
Ricki Neuman, freelance journalist, was the moderator.