In December 2016, the Swedish Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated youth organization, Sweden’s Young Muslims (Sveriges Unga Muslimer, SUM), were denied state funding from the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (Myndigheten för Ungdoms-och Civilsamhällesfrågor, MUCF), a Swedish government agency that used to fund parts of their activities. It is the first case in Sweden where a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organization is denied funding because it is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and is undemocratic. This report will detail the process leading to the decision to withhold funding to this Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organization, a process that eventually ended up, and was settled, in the Swedish court system.
SUM was established in 1991 and dissolved in 2020. It was a national Swedish youth organization with forty umbrella organizations across the country. It claimed to have approximately 5,000 members, and it used to organize seminars, camps, and conferences on issues such as Islamophobia and Muslim identity and it often represented Muslims in the media. SUM stated that it is a democratic organization whose aim is to promote democratic education among Muslim children and young people. However, as this report will show, it also had non-democratic elements and did not do enough to tackle these issues. SUM was eventually dissolved due to losing the last court case against them.
Since SUM never admitted to being affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, the problems raised in relation to them have been attributed to Muslims and Islam. This means that, among other things, Islam has been portrayed as inherently antisemitic in Sweden. This has caused damage to Islam and Muslims and was augmented by the lack of research on the difference between Islam and Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood ideology in Sweden. Few academics have taken on the role of actually conducting this research. Instead, Sweden has had researchers who support Islamists, those who are silent, or researchers who claim that Islamism and Islam are somewhat similar.
Even though the Muslim Brotherhood takes advantage of, invents, and misuses Islamophobia accusations, objectively speaking, anti-Muslim sentiments exist and fuel the Muslim Brotherhood narrative by confirming their exaggerated and conspiratorial worldview. This implies that the Islamist “war against Islam” narrative is partly constructed by anti-Islam activists who are rarely taken seriously by policymakers. Hence, those who amplify Islamist views were also unsuccessful in reaching out to policymakers in their endeavor to raise awareness about the problem of Islamist movements.
In countering Islamist influence in Europe, anti-Muslim exaggerations and putting opinions over scholarship has contributed to delaying an effective response. Therefore, the case of stopping the funding of SUM shows the importance of science in countering Islamist groups and the need for more research on Islamism for constructive solutions to the challenges that Europe faces.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.