Hussam Alkoblawi, the party leader of the newly formed New Coalition Assembly (NKS), which models itself as an "integration party" and targets Sweden's growing immigrant population, has published a poem on social media where he commends former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and former leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat, Swedish national broadcaster SVT reported.
In mid-March, Alkoblawi published a poem in Arabic on social media, which, among other things, praises the courage of Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat, alongside other Arab leaders such as former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and former Algerian President Houari Boumédiènne.
"You who seek to buy me, beware // For I am a Palestinian // Raised by Yasser, by Nasser // By Saddam and by Boumédiènne // I drink the lion's courage // And learn the honor of men // Who even if they get killed // Cannot be sold," the verse said in translation.
When confronted by SVT on whether it is appropriate to publish poems that could be perceived as praise of "dictatorship," Alkoblawi parried that an understanding of Arabic poetry and its use of similes is necessary to fully comprehend the meaning of the verse.
"It's a poem, and fiction in Arabic that cannot always be translated into other languages," Hussam Alkoblawi explained.
According to Alkoblawi, the televised execution of Saddam Hussein 2006 sent shockwaves through the Arab world.
"He showed no fear when he was to be executed. He was brave and was not afraid of death," Alkoblawi said regarding his contested use of comparisons. "And I am not the only poet to describe him so, his courage is well-known throughout the Arab world," he added.
Alkoblawi admitted that he had an understanding for criticism, but added that he had no intention of provoking people.
"If you don't want to understand the meaning, you just go on digging around," he said.
According to Spyros Sofos, research coordinator at the Center for Middle East Studies at Lund University, glorification of people is a common tool utilized in Arabic poetry.
"Saddam Hussein was a great figure, both good and evil, who, during his time in power cultivated the image of himself as brave and honorable," Sofos said, stressing that the shiny image of Hussein as Iraq's liberator and a figure that symbolizes Arab nationalism, anti-imperialism and a stance against the US is not uncommon in the Arab world.
Saddam Hussein (1937-2006) ruled Iraq from 1979-2003 after taking control as president and chairman of the Revolutionary Council. In the aftermath of the US-led war in Iraq, he was sentenced to death, inter alia, for genocide and crimes against humanity, and executed by hanging in December 2006.
The New Coalition Party (NKS) was founded in Malmö, which is often dubbed Sweden's most multicultural city and where people of foreign descent outnumber ethnic Swedes according to various estimates. By the party's own admission, it is working to "create a harmoniously functioning society regardless of one's origins."
Hussam Alkoblawi is a stateless Palestinian who, by his own admission, had lived without a passport until the age of 22.