Sweden like France: persecutory behaviour against new religions by the authorities intensifies

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While France, through the government agency MIVILUDES, is targeting the followers of MISA Yoga and its spiritual leader Gregorian Bivolaru, Sweden, which has always been seen as a vanguard of tolerance, inclusiveness and human rights, has unexpectedly engaged in persecution of a new Muslim religious movement, the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light. The director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, Willy Fautré gave a detailed account of this, which we publish below.

Polizia svedese

During the years spanning 2019 to 2022, a group of 170 believers in the religious minority, the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, faced severe religious discrimination at the hands of Swedish authorities.

SWEDEN: Persecution of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light

by Willy Fautré —  The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light (not to be confused with the Ahmadiyya Community founded in the 19th century by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad within a Sunni context, with which it has no relations) is a new religious movement that finds its roots in Twelver Shia Islam.

The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light, established in 1999, has faced grave persecution in Muslim majority countries due to its progressive beliefs. Labelled as “heretics” and “infidels,” members have endured imprisonment, torture, and targeted attacks in Muslim-majority countries for their inclusive stance on homosexuality and alcohol, belief that the headscarf is not mandatory and that the true location of the Kaaba is in Petra (Jordan), not Saudi Arabia.

The release of their gospel “The Goal of the Wise,” authored by the head of the religious group, Aba Al-Sadiq, escalated state-sponsored persecution in countries like Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Malaysia e Turkey, prompting intervention from human rights organisations, UN bodies, Amnesty International and Human Rights Without Frontiers. Additionally the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has also documented their persecution. Human rights abuses were also highlighted in a discussion at the European Parliament.

The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light first welcome in Sweden

The faith was already officially registered under the name of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light with the relevant government body in Sweden in 2018. Its property was legally registered and obtained an organisation number from the Swedish Tax Agency. The group declared that it would use the facility for services falling under tax code section number 94.910 which is titled “Activities of a Religious Community”.

The property, located in a serene landscape was used exactly for that purpose. It was frequented by men, women, and children and provided summer retreats, youth activities and computer training courses for its members. It also offered meditation classes, religious education, English, Arabic and Swedish language courses. It was used as a house of worship as any church, temple, synagogue or mosque.

Sudden and unexplainable about-face of Sweden

In 2019, the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light suddenly started to encounter a relentless campaign of harassment by the Swedish Police Authority, clearly aimed at impeding its establishment within the country.

These operations targeted both the religious community itself and its members, with the clear objective of dismantling its presence. Reports revealed collaborative efforts between the Police Authority and other governmental bodies like the Migration Agency, the Tax Agency, and the Enforcement Authority, branding the faith as unwelcome in Swedish society. This campaign of persecution by the Swedish government started after unfounded and unproven allegations from some disgruntled ex-members and accusations from Islamic extremists who wished to destroy the group.

As Sweden is known to be open to asylum-seekers persecuted in their country of origin, some scholars in religious studies who know this religious community and have examined the list of documented incidents are very perplexed by the strange behaviour of the Swedish authorities.

Some think that the Swedish institutions in charge of national security may have received an (unfounded) warning from a Muslim majority country hostile to this new liberal Muslim movement which is against any form of violence and whose values are in line with Western values.

Police raids

The first incident of police harassment towards the faith occurred in Bergslagsgarden on September 10, 2020, when over 20 police officers descended upon the faith’s premises, accompanied by a fleet of over seven police vehicles and a contingent of SWAT officers clad in combat gear.

The sudden and overwhelming police presence shocked and terrified the families present, including children, who were then confined to the property by the police force. Despite requests for explanation and a search permit, the police failed to provide any legal document.

Members were detained and access to various areas of the property was restricted without reason. This resulted in the fact that several parents were unable to pick up their children from school and a number of them, as young as 7-8 years, were left unsupervised on the school grounds for over an hour. The police did not find any evidence of illegal activity and withdrew without arresting anyone, interviewing anyone or even fining anyone. No reason was ever given for their operation.

On November 18, 2020, the community was met by yet another unanticipated arrival of four police officers, accompanying Fire Safety Inspectors. Despite objections raised by members, who recalled the previous encounter, the police officers persisted in escorting the inspectors onto the premises. No breach of the fire regulations was discovered. It can reasonably be presumed that the presence of the police was meant to immediately close the premises of the religious centre if the law had not been respected.

In both of the raids the police found nothing suspicious or illegal and did not conduct a single interview.

A Wave of Police Harassment on Individual Members

In parallel, other harassment operations were carried out. On May 14, 2020 British citizens Fawad Haider and Ali Abbas found themselves at the receiving end of police aggression during a routine traffic stop in the Örebro region. Despite complying with identification requests, their car window was violently shattered. They were detained and questioned but were eventually released without charge or explanation.

On January 11, 2022 Swedish police conducted raids on the residences of Ahmadi religion members who were US citizens, resulting in emotional distress for those involved, including mentally disabled children. No evidence of any illegal activity was uncovered.

On April 11, 2022 under false pretences, UK citizen Kalsoom Shah and her daughter Duae Zahra were summoned to the Örebro police station. The mother and daughter were separated and interrogated while their lawyer was prevented from being present. They were asked intrusive questions about their beliefs and 17-year old Dua was even offered an option to leave her family, which she declined.

On June 14, 2022 Guillaume Ballet, Ali Haider, and Lela Lotfi – Swiss, British, and Egyptian citizens – were stopped in traffic by two undercover cars, two police vans, and one motorcycle. The disproportionately large number of police vehicles was suggestive of a planned yet unwarranted ambush of the group.

They were forced to abandon their vehicle leaving it unlocked and unattended. Guillaume Ballet and Ali Haider were detained and subjected to degrading and humiliating body searches, prolonged interrogations and psychological pressure. Nothing illegal was discovered.

Lela Lotfy was left in a field 11 kilometres away from her residence and with no transportation or means to contact anyone. Guillaume Ballet and Ali Haider were forced to take a drug test. The results were negative.

The Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light considers that the rights of their members, guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, have been seriously and repeatedly violated. In all the aforementioned cases, the police operations were unfounded, unnecessary and disproportionate.

Residency Rejections and Legal Battles

Despite residing in Sweden legally, all members of the Ahmadi Religion of Peace and Light encountered significant obstacles when applying for residency. However, following the UK’s Brexit, the residency status of 69 members with British citizenship was adversely affected.

Numerous members faced rejection of their applications by the Swedish Migration Agency under controversial circumstances. For example, in November 2020, the applications of spouses and children of four employees of the Ahmadi Religion were unjustly rejected.

Legal appeals ensued, with migration lawyer Julia Högberg expressing shock at the lack of legal grounds for the initial rejections. While subsequent court rulings overturned some decisions, the prolonged legal battles drained resources and morale, prompting many members to relocate to the United Kingdom.

Prejudices of the Police and Other State Institutions

On April 29, 2023, the Swedish Radio released an interview with the head of the Police Intelligence Service in Bergslagen, Mr. Per Lundbäck. In the interview, he revealed that the Police had worked with the Migration Agency, the Tax Agency and the Swedish enforcement authority to dismantle the Ahmadi Religion and expel its members.

He described the religious group as a “cult” that they “did not want in their vicinity”. It was then decided to shut down the faith community in Sweden because they had “a feeling” that something was not right.

Additionally, businesses operated by members of the faith that were positively covered in local news in Sweden were described by the chief of police in the radio interview as a “sham.” Statements like this were not only invalid but also profoundly harmful to the reputation of the religious community whose members are already bearing the brunt of persecution in Muslim-majority countries. Consequently, due to the actions of the Swedish police, the businesses and lives of many members of the faith in Sweden were ruined and uprooted for no valid reason.

The statements of Police Chief Per Lundbäck are alarming on many levels as they are a blatant confession by the Swedish authorities that several of its government bodies engaged together in an unfounded and illegal act of direct discrimination against a religious minority and its members, such as the rejection of residency applications, which is unlawful and unconstitutional.

As a conclusion, the interview suggests that the Police Authority has actively worked to find “something” that could justify the termination of the faith’s activities in Sweden, seemingly based on a pure “feeling.”

Agenti SWAT svedesi


Source: HRWF