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Sofyan Aswad: Sofyan Aswad: Double standards in how 'new Sweden' is seen

It was a chilly autumn evening in Kristianstad when I, as a journalist on Kristianstadsbladet and Kb Mosaik, decided to take part in a local debate on integration.
The room was packed full with a mixture of old and new Swedes, all with one thing in common - they wanted to understand each other better.
Sofyan AswadSkicka e-post
Kristianstad • Publicerad 22 september 2023
Sofyan Aswad
Detta är en personligt skriven text i Mosaik Kristianstadsbladet. Åsikter som uttrycks är skribentens egna.
Tänk på hur vi alla, oavsett var vi kommer ifrån, har en möjlighet att bidra till en mer inkluderande och förstående syn på det "nya Sverige".
Tänk på hur vi alla, oavsett var vi kommer ifrån, har en möjlighet att bidra till en mer inkluderande och förstående syn på det "nya Sverige".Foto: Sofyan Aswad

But one thing struck me. When a person who had recently come to Sweden took the microphone to talk about his positive experience of Sweden, he was met by applause and encouraging nods. But when an established Swede got up and began to talk about the problems associated with immigration, the atmosphere suddenly became more tense. It felt as if we were in two different kinds of reality.

This leads my thoughts to a paradox I have thought a lot about. Why are new Swedes expected to see everything that is positive in Sweden, while a lot of Swedes tend to focus on what is negative about immigrants?


It is as if we have double standards in how we see 'new Sweden'. On one hand immigrants are expected to adapt, learn the language and contribute to society. They must see Sweden as a place full of opportunities and freedom. On the other hand we have Swedes who often look on immigration as a burden, something that brings with it problems and challenges.

”Sofyan Aswad”
”Är det inte dags att vi börjar se saker och ting från ett mer nyanserat perspektiv?”

Another aspect to consider is the role played by the media in forming how the general public sees things. The media have a tendency to focus on what is sensational, what sells. Unfortunately this means that the focus is often on negative incidents and individuals, which in turn emphasises stereotypes and prejudices. It is a vicious circle which is difficult to break.

It is also important to talk about the 'us and them' mentality that often arises in this connection. It is as though there is an invisible wall between 'Swedes' and 'immigrants' although we all share the same geographic space and in many cases the same values and dreams. This division makes it easier to demonise the other group, which in turn makes it easier to justify negative attitudes and behaviour.

So is it not time for us to see things from a more balanced point of view? If we expect new Swedes to see what is positive in our country, should we not also be prepared to see the positive contribution they can make?

Is it time for us to get rid of these double standards? We must realise that 'new Sweden' is part of us, and we all have a part to play in making it a better place for everyone who lives here.

But what can we do? To begin with we can challenge our own prejudices and stereotypes. It isn't always easy, but it is a necessary step towards changing the bigger structures. As a next step we can support the voices that work for inclusion and variety, both in the media and in society in general. And finally we can do our best to create a culture in which it is fully acceptable to be different, where we value each individual's unique contribution instead of pressing everyone into the same mould.

There is no easy solution, but it is a journey we must make together. And it starts by our seeing one another as - that's right - individuals, not as part of a homogenous group.

Just think how every single one of us, wherever we come from, has a chance to contribute to a more inclusive and understanding view of the 'new Sweden'.