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Sofyan Aswad: ”The community rests on the idea of you and me together, not simply you and me”

Sofyan Aswad
Sofyan Aswad
Foto:Victor Lindstammer

East is east and west is west. Environment, values and beliefs affect the culture in a community. There are big differences between the various cultures. But there’s one thing they all agree on : all cultures are more beautiful in their diversity if they build on the idea of you and me together, not simply you and me.

Cultural collisions occur when we misunderstand each other. In most cases it is because of differences in values and traditions, not in language.

In the Arab world, the family is at the centre of all relationships, the way of thinking is collective. For example a young couple must have the blessing of their families before they can get married. A couple in Sweden hardly ever have to do that.

Religion plays a greater part in the Arab worid than in Sweden. Even today there are leaders and men of influence who make use of religion to get power, to stir up people to revolt, violence and murder.

ISIS extremists have murdered more muslims than people from other religious groups. In spite of that, many think that IS are muslims.

One example is how IS makes a false interpretation of islam. People all over the world, in Sweden as well as in Syria, take exception to ISIS.

ISIS extremists have murdered more muslims than people from other religious groups. In spite of that, many think that IS are muslims.

In Sweden every individual is independent and free to make his or her own choices, go his or her own way, for example in questions of education, work and choice of partner.

In the Arab world there is also a kind of independence, but on certain conditions. Family bonds are strongest. In Sweden it is quite normal for an 18-year-old, legally of age, to leave home. In the Arab world that would be considered an insult to the family.

In the Arab world it is still taboo to discuss some things, such as having babies, sex and homosexuality

In the Arab world women give up their career for the sake of children and family. The western world has come a long way in its work for equality of the sexes, compared to the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world. It is positive that women in Sweden can decide for themselves how thay want to live.

In Sweden many old people live in retirement homes. In the Arab world it is shameful and unacceptable to let one’s parents live in a home.

In the Arab world it is still taboo to discuss some things, such as having babies, sex and homosexuality. In Sweden you can speak openly about all of these subjects. World Values Survey has made a national study among people who have immigrated to Sweden. It showed that many new arrivals take a negative view of homosexuality – it takes a long time for them to change their ideas.

After my four years in Sweden, I can say that in my experience most cultural collisions occur because of misunderstandings, but this is something we can, and must, talk about. Through time most people will come to understand and be be more tolerant. We can contribute to a more open society with information, open debates and other activities.

Remember – just 50 years ago homosexuality was classed as an illness in Sweden.