| Kolkata |
Updated: August 30, 2020 9:05:16 pm
On Friday, a riot broke out in the Swedish town of Malmo, where around 300 people had gathered to protest against anti-Islam activities, reported Reuters. According to the news report, right-wing extremists had allegedly set fire to a copy of the Quran, which escalated violence in the town that local police had found difficult to control.
The AFP reported that Rasmus Paludan, a far-right Danish politician who leads the anti-immigration party Hard Line, also called Stram Kurs, was due to speak at a rally. However, Sweden authorities blocked his arrival in Malmo, prompting further violence among clashing groups.
What is Stram Kurs?
This far-right Danish political party is relatively new. It was founded in 2017 by Rasmus Paludan and is known for its openly anti-Islam stance. Much of the party’s agenda focuses on building an anti-Islam narrative and engaging in acts that are provocative and offensive towards Islam and Muslims. The party uses social media platforms and public gatherings to further their agenda.
Along with having hardline views on ethnicity, immigration and citizenship, the Stram Kurs also seeks a ban on Islam and particularly singles out Muslims in Denmark. It is not known how many members the party has, but it did try to contest the 2019 Danish general election, gaining only a handful of votes. In the summer of 2019, the party had managed to secure the 20,000 voter signatures it had required to contest the parliamentary elections.
In March 2020, the Stram Kurs was found guilty of misusing the Danish voting declaration system and the temporary suspension that had been levied upon it in December 2019 was extended up to September 2022. To bypass this suspension, the party renamed itself ‘Hard Line’. Danish government agencies did not find the creation of this new entity illegal and it was allowed to operate.
Who is Rasmus Paludan?
Paludan is a former lawyer and politician, who is known for his anti-immgration, anti-Muslim and racist stance. In April 2019, he was convicted for making racist statements, an order that he tried to appeal but it was rejected. In June 2020, he was served a three-month suspended sentence in a case involving 14 different charges, where he was found guilty of all of them.
According to local Danish news reports, among the various charges, Paludan had again been found guilty of making racist statements and included one incident where he had mowed down a man using a vehicle. The court banned him from working as a lawyer for three years and he was also banned from using his driving license for one year.
According to a Guardian new report from 2019, Paludan’s incendiary videos on YouTube had gained a large number of teenage followers, a platform that had allowed him to build his follower base relatively quickly, transforming him from an obscure lawyer to an extremist who was contesting in the Danish general elections.
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What has led to the rise of the far-right in Europe?
For decades, Sweden and Denmark stood out for being one the few politically stable countries in the region. That has changed over the past few years, particularly since the migration crisis in Europe that started in earnest in 2015. Issues such as immigration, race, integration, crime, religion, social welfare and discrimination, etc, have been at the forefront of political discussions in these countries.
At a political rally in 2017, US President Donald Trump said: “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden! They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”
Trump was referring to riots that had erupted in an immigrant suburb of Stockholm that occurred after police had attempted to arrest a suspect on drug charges. In the past, the country has witnessed eruptions of unrest that have been linked to issues concerning unemployment and integration of immigrants. In 2015, when Sweden began witnessing a sharp increase in immigration, the country also faced anti and pro immigration demonstrations and related clashes.
An Al Jazeera news report from 2019 indicated that anti-Muslim extremism has become more severe in Denmark over the past few years, and far-right parties like Paludan’s Hard Line and their rhetoric have contributed to this.
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