The Corner

Sweden and Belgium: Silencing and Denial

Sweden’s immigration catastrophe is hardly news, but, writing in the New York Times, Benjamin Teitelbaum underlines how much of the responsibility for it lies with the refusal of ‘establishment’ parties of the left, far left (well, it’s Sweden we’re talking about), center and center-right to accept that dissent could be rooted in anything other than xenophobia, racism and all the rest. That’s something that might be expected from the left, but that this was also the position taken by the Moderaterna (the largest party on the center right) under the leadership of Fredrik Reinfeldt, still—even now—remains startling. The Moderaterna, who led two successive governments between 2006-2014, have quite a bit to be proud of, but about this, not so much.  In the end, I suspect that Reinfeldt, an open borders man, pur et dur, will be remembered very poorly indeed.


Sweden’s message to migrants in Europe is clear: Don’t come here. “Even we have our limits, and now they have been reached,” a defeated-sounding migration minister, Morgan Johansson, explained during a press conference on Nov. 5. “Those who come to our borders may be told that we cannot guarantee them housing.”

That message, nailed down this week when the government announced that Sweden was reintroducing border controls, was a sudden shift from an administration that had claimed there were “no limits” to the number of refugees it could accept. The reversal testifies not only to intensifying challenges Sweden faces abroad, but also to the dysfunctional nature of its immigration debate at home…

 The real nightmare for Swedish politics is not that it now includes the kind of continental-style far-right party it once thought itself immune to [The Sweden Democrats]. It is rather that mainstream forces have surrendered all critical perspectives on immigration to a party with which they can neither collaborate nor bear to see affirmed. Had a transparent and dynamic public discussion been taking place in Sweden during the past months — a discussion that acknowledged both the need for human solidarity and the limitations of the country’s infrastructure — a more sustainable immigration policy might have emerged. Instead, it seems ill-fated policies will not be altered until the country brings itself to the brink of collapse.

That ‘public discussion’ was needed not months ago, but years….

And this detail is worth noting:

The police have acknowledged that they’ve lost the ability to monitor the whereabouts of foreign nationals within the country.

Meanwhile to the south, Brussels is now under a state of high alert. We can only hope this will prove to be a false alarm, but accounts like this one in Politico by Teun Voeten, a cultural anthropologist and war photographer, don’t bode well for the longer term.  He’s describing Molenbeek, a Brussels neighborhood that has come into sharp focus after it emerged that some of the Paris attackers came from there.

[Molenbeek] was hardly multicultural. Rather, with roughly 80 percent of the population of Moroccan origin, it was tragically conformist and homogenous. There may be a vibrant alternative culture in Casablanca and Marrakech, but certainly not in Molenbeek

Over nine years, as I witnessed the neighborhood become increasingly intolerant. Alcohol became unavailable in most shops and supermarkets; I heard stories of fanatics at the Comte des Flandres metro station who pressured women to wear the veil; Islamic bookshops proliferated, and it became impossible to buy a decent newspaper. With an unemployment rate of 30 percent, the streets were eerily empty until late in the morning. Nowhere was there a bar or café where white, black and brown people would mingle. Instead, I witnessed petty crime, aggression, and frustrated youths who spat at our girlfriends and called them “filthy whores.” If you made a remark, you were inevitably scolded and called a racist. There used to be Jewish shops on Chaussée de Gand, but these were terrorized by gangs of young kids and most closed their doors around 2008. Openly gay people were routinely intimidated, and also packed up their bags.

And, of course, this…

[T]he most important factor is Belgium’s culture of denial. The country’s political debate has been dominated by a complacent progressive elite who firmly believes society can be designed and planned. Observers who point to unpleasant truths such as the high incidence of crime among Moroccan youth and violent tendencies in radical Islam are accused of being propagandists of the extreme-right, and are subsequently ignored and ostracized.

And there are few more egregious examples of that complacent progressive elite than Guy Verhofstadt, the former (1999-2008) Belgian prime minister and loudmouthed authoritarian who is now the eurofundamentalist leader of ALDE, the post-democratic ‘liberal’ grouping in the European Parliament. Verhofstadt was in Budapest on Friday for an ALDE conference, where he took the time to launch an attack on Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban:

 “[Orban] is also our problem, a European problem. Orban is Europe’s moral crisis. Instead of defending our European values, we tolerate him. We barely react.”

Orban is far from perfect,  no devil and no saint, but if Verhofstadt really wants to confront a European “moral crisis”, or, for that matter, defend supposedly liberal “European values”, perhaps he might start at home, with Molenbeek, a growing Belgian disgrace to which quite evidently he “barely reacted” during his years in office.

Then again, shouting at some East European is so much more acceptable


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