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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Muslim associations in Malmö and Lund - a snapshot [part 3]

originally published as  'Muslimska föreningar i Malmö och Lund – en ögonblicksbild' in on December 2nd, 2010 and translated from the Swedish original by Spyros A. Sofos


By Erica Li Lundqvist & Leif Stenberg


The first large groups of Muslims arrived in Sweden during the 1960s and 1970s.[19] They mainly consisted of guest migrants from Turkey and former Yugoslavia, and were then followed by a wave of family reunification –widespread during the late 1970s and early 1980s. During the mid-1980s, asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey started arriving in Sweden and at the end of the decade they were joined by asylum seekers from Somalia and Kosovo. [20] The subsequent Yugoslav disintegration meant that a large number of Muslim Bosnian refugees came to Sweden, the majority of whom have settled in Malmö. [21] To all these different Muslim migrants one should add a number of Swedes who have converted to Islam. Despite their small numbers, these converts have played a significant role in the encounter between Muslim and Swedish institutions. They have frequently been addressing the media commenting on a lot of questions about Islam and Muslim life since the mid 1980s

The emergence of Mosques

The Muslim presence was felt in Sweden in the 1970 and 1980s, when practicing Muslims began to organize themselves and to demand the establishment of Muslim or Islamic institutions such as mosques, schools and local clubs. However, it was in the 1990s that most Muslim societies were established in Malmö and Lund. The oldest congregation in Malmö, which we will talk about later in this study is the Malmö Muslim Association, which was established in 1977 and is still active. However, there have been other associations or congregations that can be traced even further back in time, but these no longer exist.

According to representatives of the Islamic Center in Malm
ö, discussions about constructing purpose built mosques were initiated in 1960. This gave rise at the time to a certain resistance from the local society, but plans to build a mosque in Malmö were still alive in the early 1980s when construction of the Islamic Center was started. The mosque in Malmö was opened with a Friday prayer on April 20, 1984. The driving force behind the mosque construction was Bejzat Becirov. He came to Sweden in 1962 from Yugoslavia and formed, together with Midhat Ibrahimbegovic the Muslim Assembly in 1967. Midhat came to Sweden in 1953 and settled in Lund, and worked as an electrical engineer at the engineering firm JL Weibull in Åkarp. During an interview, Midhat recalls that the number of Muslims in Sweden in 1953 was around 500, but no one in Lund, to his knowledge. In the late 1950s, more Muslims came because of labour migration and, since then, the number has been constantly increasing. In 1961, Midhat arranged the first Muslim common prayer and celebration of the Eid ul-Adha festival in Malmö. Approximately 60-70 Muslims from Malmö, Lund and Copenhagen, attended the event.

According to the Islamic Center's website the main aim of the Mosque and Islamic Center was to preserve contemporary Muslim heritage within the context of a future Swedish identity. For almost 30 years now, the Islamic Center has been one of Sweden's leading Islamic institutions. The Center has unfortunately over the years been subjected to a series of sabotage and the Center's leaders often receive threats. On the night of April 27 2003 large parts of the mosque area, including the Muslim independent school Ögårdsskolan were devastated in a major fire which is suspected to have been deliberately set. No one has been prosecuted for the fire as yet. Other attacks against the mosque consisted of racist graffiti and broken windows and a number of minor arson attacks. It is said that at one point a pig was thrown into the mosque. More arson attacks have been directed against other Muslim groups in Malmö, including the Ahmadiyya community mosque in the Husie district

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