Islam, Immigration and the Welfare State

February 5, 2006

Source: The New York Times Magazine

On February 5, 2006 The New York Times Magazine reported, "In few places on earth is the air fresher than in a Swedish housing project. Take Bergsjon, which sits five miles from the center of Sweden's second-largest city, the stately Dutch-built port of Gothenburg. Home to a Volvo plant and some of the world's biggest shipyards, Gothenburg was long an industrial powerhouse. Bergsjon was built between 1967 and 1972 to reward the workers who made it that... But now the shipyards are gone. The Swedish industrial workers Bergsjon was planned for no longer live there. Today it is inhabited mostly by immigrants, many of them refugees, of a hundred nationalities. Seventy percent of the residents were either born abroad or have parents who were. The same goes for 93 percent of the schoolchildren. You see Somali women walking the paths in hijabs and long wraps and graffiti reading 'Bosna i Hercegovina 4-Ever.' A few years ago, the mayor of Gothenburg declared, 'The prospects of turning Bergsjon into a normal Swedish neighborhood are almost nil.' Forty percent of the families are on outright welfare, and many of the rest are on various equivalents of welfare that bear different names. Far below half the population is employed. There are reports of a rise in recruitment to criminal gangs — and to radical Islamic groups, too, although none of the authorities can give a clear idea of how Islam is practiced and where... It is where crime interacts with the world of Sweden's hundreds of thousands of Muslims that people get most passionate. There can be few countries in Europe where natives know less about the ways of the Muslims who live among them than Sweden. The isolation of the apartments where immigrants mostly live has a lot to do with this. But even those who live and work in those areas find it hard to be precise about Muslim ways, and particularly about Islamist radicalism — although all are fairly sure that it is increasing."