Vox: Thousands of people in Sweden show the right way to respond to Islamophobia

Don’t touch my mosque.

It’s only January 2, but Sweden has already taken a strong lead in the competition for “most awesome country 2015” by showing how decent people should respond to Islamophobic violence. Thousands of people turned out in Stockholm today for a rally supporting Muslims, in response to arson attacks on three Swedish mosques last week.

A mosque in the city of Eskilstuna had been firebombed on Christmas day, injuring five worshippers inside. A few days later, a second mosque in the southern city of Eslov was damaged in a fire that police say they suspect was also arson. And on New Years day, a mosque in Uppsala was hit by a molotov cocktail, but did not catch fire.

The day after the Uppsala mosque was attacked, local residents “love bombed” it, covering the entrance of the building with paper hearts and messages of support.

The demonstration and “love bombing” were a powerful way for ordinary Swedes to reject racism and show support for Muslims. But the march also carried broader political significance, because it showed that Swedes felt a duty to publicly reaffirm the country’s identity as a place that is tolerant and welcoming towards immigrants.

In many countries, anti-immigrant populism dominates the public conversation about immigration not because it necessarily represents the majority view, but because people with more moderate and tolerant views don’t make it a priority to speak up publicly. These demonstrations suggest that Sweden may be different: thousands of people took to the streets to say that they are not willing to stay silent, and will not allow extremists to dominate the debate…

All this before it has even been established what cause the fire. It must be Islamophobia — why wait for the results of the investigation when you can churn out publicity like this. The sign reads “Don’t touch my mosque.”