Why did Sweden forbid Jewish practices?

In Stockholm this autumn there was the Jewish Film Festival, a Klezmer concert and much more for the 21st time. It seems like everything is fine with Jewish life in Sweden. But guess what? That's not okay with us, and that's not okay.

Slaughtering has been banned in my country since 1937, and parliament is currently discussing a draft law as to whether the import and sale of kosher meat should also be banned. The circumcision of boys, another pillar of the Jewish faith, is also threatened. When it comes to our religious traditions, the right and left in Sweden are quick to find common ground; they take great pride in protecting both animals and children from our "barbaric practices".

risk The rhetoric is old and familiar, as are its effects. There are about 20,000 Jews among the nine million Swedes. But showing your Judaism, for example by wearing a kippah or showing a Star of David, runs the serious risk of verbally harassed or, worse, physical harm.

The recently published study by the EU shows that the fear among Sweden's Jews is particularly great: 49 percent do not want to show their Judaism publicly, and 80 percent report that anti-Semitism has increased in the past five years. The Swedish crime statistics confirm this: the number of anti-Semitic crimes has tripled since 2010.

What is happening here is just not right. People from all over the world seek refuge in my country so that they can finally live freely. I want this to happen. And I want us to succeed too. According to EU law, asylum is granted to people who have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, nationality or religion. These criteria apply to Jews in Sweden. So I have now applied to be recognized as a refugee - not in America, not in Israel, but here in Sweden, in my own country.

Is that absurd? No doubt. I expect my application to be rejected. But the goal I am concerned with is beyond any absurdity. When it comes to the life, security and freedom of its citizens, the Swedish government has promised a lot. It should now do justice to that.

The author is a political advisor in Sweden. (We thank Mosaic Magazine, New York, for permission to reprint this.)