21:03 GMT +322 November 2019
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    Two policemen stand outside a mosque in Uppsala, Sweden

    Sweden Expels Extremist Imams in 'Historic Offensive'

    © AP Photo / Anders Wiklund
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    While the number of extremists in Sweden is estimated to have grown from hundreds to thousands, the men suspected of spreading radical Islam and supporting terrorism were allowed to run mosques and even worked with schools and pre-schools.

    In what has been dubbed a “historic offensive” against radical imams, several people have been placed in custody with the support of the Act on Special Control of Foreigners (LSU) and slated for deportation.

    A total of five imams and preachers are set to be expelled from Sweden over suspected radicalisation attempts and terrorist threats, the Migration Board reported.

    One of them, Imam Abu Raad, who served at the al-Rashideen Mosque in the city of Gävle, was earlier said to advocate the “anti-democratic” and “militant” brand of Islam called Wahhabism and supported al-Qaeda* and Daesh*. He is reportedly seen as a “sage” in Sweden's Salafist circles.

    All five men to be deported were active in mosques in different parts of Sweden, such as in Västerås, Gothenburg and Umeå. Some also worked with schools and pre-schools, the Aftonbladet newspaper reported.

    The background for the extraordinary measure is their alleged Islamist teachings. The Security Police (SÄPO) believes the men compromise the nation's security and increase the terror threat to Sweden.

    “The efforts by the Security Police within the framework of the LSU are aimed at uncovering people who are a security threat. This, in turn, can help to reduce the development within the extremist environments. Curbing this growth is crucial for the long-term reduction of the terrorist threat and contributes to a safer Sweden”, SÄPO chief Klas Friberg said.

    SÄPO's evidence against the men is secret. While in custody, they are kept isolated and are not allowed to talk to anyone without guards listening in, to prevent them from spreading their teachings and radicalising other prisoners.

    According to Magnus Ranstorp, a senior terrorist researcher of the National Defence College, who has been ringing alarm bells for several years, the crackdown against militant Islamism marks a shift in SÄPO's policy.

    “One can ask why this is happening now, but I think it has to do with the Syrian war and the fact the extremist environments in Sweden have grown from about 200 to 2,000 people. SÄPO's task is to slow down the growth in the extremist environments”, Ranstorp told Aftonbladet.

    In Sweden's Muslim circles, the expulsion was described as an overreaction.

    Gävle mosque's spokesperson Nizam Hindi called the decision to expel Abu Raad, previously described as a “humble and well-respected man”, “regrettable” given than it may have serious consequences.

    While the number of Muslims in Sweden has been growing exponentially in recent decades, exceeding 8.1 per cent of the Swedish population according to the Pew Research Institute, the number of extremists has also risen “from hundreds to thousands”, SÄPO reported. Sweden has also emerged as one of Europe's top “exporters” of jihadism per capita.

    Salafism is a hardline brand of Islam that evolved from Wahhabism and has been associated with literalist interpretations and a puritanical approach, often labelled fundamentalist. Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are often referenced as strongholds.

    * Al-Qaeda and Daesh are both terrorist organisations outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

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    Tags:
    terrorism, radical Islam, Islamism, Islam, Scandinavia, Sweden
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