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Friday, December 10, 2010

Muslim associations in Malmö and Lund - a snapshot [part 1]

translated from 'Muslimska föreningar i Malmö och Lund – en ögonblicksbild' 

By Erica Li Lundqvist & Leif Stenberg

During a visit to the urban district of Rosengård in Malmö in order to photograph the "cellar mosques", we suddenly got lost in the suburban jungle. A group of children and young people noticed us wondering and asked us what we were doing. "We are looking for a mosque", we said, after which they replied in chorus: "There are many!" And they pointed in all directions.

The development of Muslim neighbourhoods in Malmö and Lund has been gaining momentum since the first Muslim community was established in Malmö in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today, Islam is a natural, albeit controversial, part of Swedish society. Nevertheless, very little commentary on Islam in Sweden is premised on comprehensive empirical investigation. [1] A problem in the discussion on Islam and Muslims in Sweden is therefore the lack of access to large-scale studies of how Islam is practiced and organized in Sweden. There is no sufficient documentation and analysis of Muslim associations and their activities in Malmö and Lund. The compilation of a comprehensive guide has only recently been attempted in Gothenburg, but an up to date overview has yet to be attempted in the Malmö and Lund area. [2] We therefore believe, that in this context, the famous report "Threats to democracy and fundamental values - a report from Malmö " published in 2009 does not give a clear picture of Muslim life in Malmö (for a brief discussion of the so-called "Rosengård report", see below). In addition, several congregations and organizations have withered in recent years and new ones have taken their place.

The aim of this project was to provide an initial inventory of Muslim organizations and associations in Malmö and Lund. The result can be seen as a snapshot containing a brief description of the various associations with Muslim ties located in Malmö and Lund, and as a brief academic attempt to discuss how Islam is practiced in southern Sweden. No similar work has previously been conducted in the Muslim areas in Skåne. However, we have not had the financial means to pursue this ambition in full. Instead, we have decided to publish this text in in the hope that it could be of use to those interested in the topic and a basis for further academic studies. The text begins with an overview of Muslim community activities in the region. It is a chronological description following the emergence and development of Islam in the region trying to relate to the debate on Islam and Muslims in Malmö and Lund. This study began in 2007 and since then, several congregations disbanded while new ones have arrived. This is discussed briefly in a concluding paragraph which aims to demonstrate the variability of the characteristics of Muslim religious life in the Malmö -Lund area. The authors wish to thank Anders Ackfeldt and Mukhiddine Shirinov for their contribution to the study. We would also like to extend a warm thank you to Ask Gasi for his assistance in contacts with the congregations.

How many muslims are there in Malmö and Lund?
At the time of this study, the population of Malmö is in the region of 300,000. [3] In the relevant debate, the number of people with Muslim backgrounds in Malmö is estimated to be in the region of 50,000. [4] This figure recurs frequently in other reports and in the media. [5] This, comparatively high figure, in a European perspective, has generated considerable debate in both Swedish and foreign media, often in relation to Swedish asylum policy. [6] In late autumn 2004, for example, the American cable TV Fox News channel, carried a feature depicting Malmö as a city besieged by Muslims. It challenged "Swedish tolerance" of its muslim population's "explosion". [7] This reflected much of the debate about the presence of muslims in today's Malmö. For example, figures in the media estimate that 25% of Malmö's population is Muslim, but only 5% of these are so-called practicing. [8] The website of the Islamic Centre suggests however that there are 45,000 people of a Muslim background in Malmö and that 20 % of the population in Sweden's three largest cities are of non-Swedish origin [9].
It is extremely difficult to obtain reliable figures on the number of Muslims in Malmö as it also is to establish who should be counted as Muslims. [10] To have a Muslim background, that is, to have immigrated from a predominantly Muslim country or to have parents originating from there, does not necessarily mean that one is Muslim or for that matter, a believer or practicing Muslim. There are theological, practical and ethnic aspects that should be taken into consideration in such an assessment. Swedish authorities have taken the view that anyone who is a member of an Islamic congregation should be counted as a Muslim, albeit in a bureaucratic sense that primarily affects the allocation of money to religious organizations. As there are no statistics that can clarify or calculate the number of Muslims in Malmö, one can easily accept the available information uncritically.
If one made an effort to utilize the current available statistics on Malmö's population , it becomes clear that 87,554 of Malmö's residents in 2010 were born abroad (29.8%). [11] According to Malmö City's own statistics, over 174 countries are represented in Malmö, but the statistics give only 127 countries, the countries with fewer than 10 migrant people not being reported. Slightly more than 20,000 of the foreign-born population come from neighbouring Denmark (9,174), Poland (6,903), Germany (1,790), Finland (1,678) and Norway (847, this figure though comes from the 2008 statistics). According to our calculations, among the 127 countries reported in Malmö City's statistics 31 nations are with a Muslim population majority. The eight largest, according to the 2010 statistics, are Iraq (9,465), Bosnia and Herzegovina (5,920) [12], Lebanon (3,669), Iran (3,259), Turkey (1,904), Afghanistan (1,848), Somalia (1,375) and Pakistan ( 1,123). The total number of persons from the most prominent countries with a majority Muslim population is therefore 28,653 people. In addition to this, there is a number of Muslims who were born in Sweden and an unknown number of converts. The number of converts is limited.

Assuming the figure from Malmö University's website of 50,000 Muslims in Malmö stands, therefore, approximately 22,000 Muslims were either born in Sweden, being either converts or Muslims who come from a country with a Muslim minority. However, one should not assume that all people from a country with a Muslim majority population are Muslims in the ethnic sense, or that children of parents with a Muslim background consider themselves Muslims. In the case of Lebanon and Iraq there is probably a sizable number of people with a religion other than Islam. Ambiguities as far as their numbers are concerned are consequently significant. People with a Muslim background in Malmö are mainly residing in the Fosie and Rosengård districts, where also most of the Muslim communities presented in this paper are located.

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