How the threat to Sweden is affected when sunni leaders call for boycotts remains to be seen. Terror experts draw parallels to the campaign against Swedish social services that was widely spread abroad.

Magnus Ranstorp, terror researcher and head of the Center for Asymmetric Threat and Terrorism Studies (CATS) at the Swedish Defense University. Archive image.
Magnus Ranstorp, terror researcher and head of the Center for Asymmetric Threat and Terrorism Studies (CATS) at the Swedish Defense University. Archive image.

Once again, Sweden has become the focus of the Muslim part of the Middle East. The al-Azhar University of Cairo calls last week's Quran actions a "crime" against Muslims and says that a boycott of Sweden would be an appropriate response to governments that protect ''barbaric crimes under the inhumane and immoral banner they call freedom of expression."

That the invitation may have effects on Swedish interests are the experts TT talked to agree on, but how it will affect the threat picture against Sweden is too early to say.

"These are issues that are extremely sensitive religiously and emotionally to many people. The question is who will keep this alive and who will throw gasoline at the fire", says Magnus Ranstorp, terror researcher at the Swedish Defense University.

He sees the recent events as a continuation of previous events that have affected the threat to Sweden.

"Rasmus Paludan's previous Quran burnings and Easter riots were also noted abroad and also the impact campaign against social services – where they conspiratorically claimed that Swedish social services kidnap Muslim children – got a huge spread."

Increases the threat image

According to Magnus Ranstorp, the effect of the boycott message on Sweden will depend on how Al-Jazeera and the Turkish media choose to report, how the issue is presented in social media and how politicians like President Erdogan act.

"But of course it is problematic if it continues and escalates because it creates an increased threat image against Swedes who move in other countries, especially in the Middle East, and against our diplomatic missions and companies," he says.

What moves and campaigns get for dissemination and how they spread are closely followed by Swedish security authorities such as the Swedish Agency for Psychological Defense and the Swedish Institute.

"We have good functioning sensors that capture trends. They monitor who spreads different things and what power it gets in different countries and if measures can be applied to mitigate the effects," says Magnus Ranstorp.

Drives on

Terrorist researcher Magnus Norell also draws parallels to the campaign against Swedish social services.

"Every time something like this happens, there are actors who have an interest in driving the course of events and people with a more activistic outlook can take this as revenue and a religious sanction. Even political groupings like the party Nyans, who took back on the Care of Young Persons Act campaign against social services, may very well do so now", he says.

TT: How will this affect the Swedish NATO application?

"When people in the Middle East say "never", it means "not right now anyway", in my experience. I don't think there is any chance that Sweden will become a NATO member before the Turkish elections, no matter how we act. We should stay firm and not apologize because we are a democratic country where you can actually do things like this," says Magnus Norell.

The party Nyans demonstrated against Social Services and the application of Care of Young Persons Act at Möllevångstorget in Malmö in February 2022. Archive image.
The party Nyans demonstrated against Social Services and the application of the Care of Young Persons Act at Möllevångstorget in Malmö in February 2022. Archive image.