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WikiLeaks: 2009-12-15: 09STOCKHOLM779: Snapshot of Muslim Communities in Sweden

by WikiLeaks. 09STOCKHOLM779: December 15, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 10:12 AM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09STOCKHOLM779 2009-12-15 09:26 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Stockholm
DE RUEHSM #0779/01 3490926
R 150926Z DEC 09
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2019 
     B. STOCKHOLM 457 
     C. 2008 STOCKHOLM 557 
     D. 2008 STOCKHOLM 298 
Classified By: DCM Robert Silverman for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
1. (SBU) Summary: As in other European countries, Muslim 
communities in Sweden are fast-growing and diverse.  Muslims 
represent between 2.7% to 4.4% of the total Swedish 
population of 9.2 million, some 250,000 to 450,000 persons. 
Prominent communities are from Iraq and other Arabic-speaking 
countries (200,000), Iran (100,000), the former Yugoslavia 
(70,000), Turkey (60,000) and Somalia (25,000).   There are 
four officially sanctioned mosques and many more informal 
"corner mosques" throughout Sweden. 
2. (SBU) This is the first in a three-part series on Muslim 
communities in Sweden.  Part one describes demographic trends 
in Muslim-majority immigrant communities.  Part two outlines 
immigrant integration struggles in Swedish society.  Part 
three discusses Islamic radicalization and extremism as well 
as U.S. engagement programs with Muslim-majority communities 
in Sweden.  End Summary. 
3. (SBU) The first Muslims arrived in Sweden as guest workers 
in the 1960s from Turkey, Yugoslavia and Pakistan (ref A). 
Over the next four decades, these numbers grew because of 
family reunification immigration policies as well as 
conflicts in countries such as Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bosnia 
and Somalia.  Sweden's generous asylum laws provide high 
levels of social services -- housing, health care, Swedish 
language instruction and employment training -- to the newly 
4. (SBU) It is difficult to provide exact numbers of Muslims 
in Sweden today because the Swedish government prohibits 
collecting information on personal religious beliefs. 
Studies frequently suggest a range between 250,000 and 
450,000, or about 2.7% to 4.4% of the total Swedish 
population of 9.2 million.  Within the Islamic community, 
unconfirmed estimates suggest this number may be as high as 
500,000.  Academic reports assess that one-third of Muslims 
in Sweden are practicing (i.e., they follow most prescribed 
laws of Islam and regularly visit mosques) while the 
remaining two-thirds describe themselves as secularized 
(i.e., they do not follow the laws of Islam and believe in a 
separation between religion and state).  Most Muslims in 
Sweden are Sunni.  One 2007 EU report estimates that there 
are 60,000 Shia in Sweden. 
5. (SBU) There are four officially sanctioned mosques and 
many more informal "corner mosques" throughout Sweden. 
Stockholm is home to the Grand Mosque plus three smaller 
mosques with predominantly Arabic-, Turkish- and 
Persian-speaking congregations.  There is one Shia mosque in 
the small industrial city of Trollhattan in western Sweden, 
where the majority of foreign-born residents come from the 
former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Lebanon, Bosnia and Syria.  The 
Malmo mosque in southern Sweden attracts 55,000 and maintains 
an Islamic school and library. 
6. (C) The Bellevue Mosque in Gothenburg follows the Salafi 
movement and is attended by many Somali individuals.  In July 
2009, Xasaan Xuseen, a spiritual leader of al-Shabaab, 
visited the Bellevue Mosque, causing concern that young 
people would be recruited to fight with al-Shabaab in Somalia 
(ref B).  There is also a large Ahmadiyya mosque in 
Gothenburg.  "Corner mosques" or informal places of worship 
are only a "minor issue" in Sweden, according to Swedish 
counter-terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp (protect).  A recent 
study by Mid Sweden University reports that 70% of mosques 
are open and willing to engage in integration programs for 
newly arrived Muslims.  One important service these programs 
provide, according to the study, is to create networks 
between established Muslims and the newly arrived. 
7. (SBU) The information presented on prominent Muslim 
communities in Sweden is based on official Swedish 
statistical reporting about country of birth, citizenship, 
and parents' citizenship(s).  This data is commonly used to 
infer ethnicity and other information such as religious 
beliefs, although the figures reported here should be 
STOCKHOLM 00000779  002 OF 003 
regarded only as estimates. 
--- Iraq 
8.  (SBU) There are 110,00 Iraqis who live in Sweden today. 
This number increased significantly between 2003-2008 when 
over 40,000 Iraqis arrived as refugees, prompting Swedish 
officials to call for more countries -- including the United 
States -- to accept Iraqi citizens fleeing from war.  Most 
Iraqis in Sweden come from Mosul and Baghdad, and many have 
high levels of education, which some scholars claim may 
result in less religious affiliation among both Muslims and 
non-Muslims.  Statistics Sweden reports that 55% of 
Iraqi-born individuals in Sweden are men and 45% are women. 
The average age for men in this group is 33 and for women is 
32.  An estimated 27% (30,000) of the Iraqi population in 
Sweden belongs to the Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Orthodox or 
Syriac Catholic faiths (often identified collectively as 
"Assyrians"), which suggests that a disproportionate number 
of Iraq's Christian population (5%) came to Sweden (ref C). 
Kurds are also heavily represented among Iraqi immigrants to 
9. (SBU) Most Iraqis in Sweden live in the metropolitan areas 
of Stockholm (33,500), Gothenburg (12,00) and Malmo (11,000). 
 Sodertalje, a city of 80,000 just south of Stockholm, is 
home to some 6,000 Iraqis, the majority of whom are 
Christian.  In recent months, the Swedish Migration Board 
reports that Iraqi asylum claims are down 74% from 2008.  The 
Swedish Government says that 293 Iraqi individuals have been 
deported and an additional 862 are currently awaiting 
deportation following a 2007 decision by the Swedish 
Migration Board declaring Iraq a non-combat zone.  The 
Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter states that there have been 
three mass deportations of Iraqis from Sweden, which has 
caused tension between the two governments because Iraqi 
Migration Minister Abdul Samad Sultan announced that Iraq 
does not accept forced deportations.  In December, the 
Swedish Migration Board announced that they would review the 
security situation of Christians in Iraq due to increased 
reports of violence, which may prompt a change in Swedish 
--- Iran 
10. (SBU) Iranians number 80,000 to 100,000, although this 
community is often characterized as "culturally" rather than 
"religiously" Muslim because many individuals left Iran in 
the 1980s in opposition to religious leadership.  In 
Stockholm, there are about 24,000 Iranians whereas Gothenburg 
is home to 12,800.  An EU analysis estimates that one-sixth 
of this population is a practicing Muslim.  Iranians tend to 
adopt some Swedish customs, such as more egalitarian views on 
gender relations and sexuality, according to one research 
study.  Iranian immigrants also tend to be well educated -- 
50% had earned high school diplomas and 20% had at least 
three years of university education at the time of their 
migration to Sweden. 
--- Former Republic of Yugoslavia 
11. (SBU) In the early 1990s, about 50,000 asylum seekers 
from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Kosovo were 
granted temporary residence in Sweden, although several 
thousand returned home through repatriation programs in the 
late 1990s.  Today, immigrants continue to come primarily 
from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo based on family 
reunification, and the entire community has expanded to 
70,000 individuals.  An estimated 65% of Bosnian immigrants 
to Sweden hold Swedish citizenship, which is largely viewed 
by Bosnians as a pragmatic move to facilitate travel between 
the two countries. There are 12,200 individuals from the 
former Yugoslavia who live in the Malmo metropolitan region. 
--- Turkey 
12. (C) There are 40,000 to 60,000 Turkish immigrants in 
Sweden.  According to research by Stockholm University's 
Charles Westin (protect), immigrants from Turkey might 
identify as Turks, Kurds or Syrians.  Many Turkish Muslims 
came as labor migrants in the 60s and 70s when Turks were the 
largest and most prominent Muslim community in Sweden.  While 
most intended to return, many now view Sweden as home and 
recognize that their children have grown up as Swedes.  A new 
study appearing in the International Migration Review 
research journal shows that many Turkish immigrants still 
maintain strong social and cultural ties to their home 
--- Somalia 
STOCKHOLM 00000779  003 OF 003 
13. (SBU) There are 25,000 Somali immigrants who live in 
Sweden, of which 8,000 are Swedish citizens.  With the 
decline of Iraqi asylum seekers, Somalis now represent the 
largest group of asylum seekers in Sweden.  This population 
is a relatively young group -- the average age for both 
Somali-born men and women in Sweden is 29.  There has also 
been a sharp rise in unaccompanied Somali minors to Sweden. 
Between January and June 2009, there were 355 Somali minors 
who applied for asylum compared to 345 who applied in 2008 
(ref D).  The Swedish Security Police (SAPO) report that 
around 20 Somali-Swedes have gone to Somalia to take part in 
or train with al-Shabaab; some have been killed in Somalia 
(ref B).  SAPO is worried that interest in volunteering for 
such activity is increasing in Sweden. 
--- Other Arabic-Speaking Communities 
14. (SBU) There are prominent immigrant groups from Syria 
(24,000), Lebanon (23,000), Morocco (7,000), Tunisia (4,000), 
Egypt (3,000), Algeria (2,000) and the West Bank and Gaza 
(2,000).  Among immigrants from Syria and Lebanon -- the 
largest of these groups -- many individuals identify with 
Christian denominations. 
--- The Kurdish Diaspora 
15. (SBU) The Kurdish diaspora in Sweden is estimated to be 
50,000 - 60,000 individuals, many of whom originally came 
from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey.  In statistical reporting, 
Kurds are recognized by their country of origin, but they 
represent a cohesive diaspora in Sweden.  Swedish Kurds are 
well organized through several friendship associations that 
promote Kurdish language instruction and cultural events. 
--- Smaller Communities 
16. (SBU) Immigrants from Muslim-majority countries including 
Pakistan (7,600) and Bangladesh (4,800) also live in Sweden, 
but these communities are considerably smaller than their 
counterparts in Norway and Denmark.  The Eritrean community 
(7,800) is also growing.  Dan Eliasson, Director-General of 
the Swedish Migration Board, announced in late September that 
Sweden will accept "a couple hundred" Eritrean and Somali 
refugees as part of the quotas agreed upon with the UNHCR. 
(Note: Sweden is the EU country that accepts the most quota 
refugees.  Last year, Sweden took 1,900 of the 4,800 quota 
refugees who arrived in Europe.)  Ethiopians (10,000) are 
represented by a small Muslim minority.  Stockholm's Radio 
Negashi (88.9MHz), "The Voice of Ethiopian Muslims," 
broadcasts weekly programs on Islamic history and social 
17. (SBU)  The tremendous diversity of fast-growing Muslim 
communities in Sweden provides unique opportunities for 
outreach and engagement to Muslim individuals with social and 
economic ties to the Middle East, Africa, and South Central 


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