Sweden's first Muslim folk high school opened this week in Stockholm: Kista folkhögskola. Folk high schools are institutions of informal education for adults, common in Scandinavia. The school accepts also non-Muslims. Kista folkhögskola is intended to be a place where cultures can meet and aid people to integrate into society.
Abdulkader Habib is a study rector at the school. "Look around," he says, "Everywhere you see people with backgrounds from other lands. This is an important group in society."
The school will open in two weeks. Many have sought a job as teachers. The school accepts those who have got a high school diploma and offers course in history, music, Arabic and computers. The school is working together with companies and schools in Kista. When the students finish they will receive help in looking for a job and education.
The school is aiming itself at those who are outsiders in society, and who cannot find a job or education. This includes both Swedish born and immigrants.
"Sometimes people need an encouraging environment when they are new" says Abdulkader Habib. Kista, he says, is exactly such a place.
Abdulkader Habib studied in a folk high school and wants others to get that chance. "The folk high school gave me support, value, contact and respect. It is a fantastic possibility for us to come and take part in society. "
Kista fold high school shall become a meeting place between cultures. Sjövik folk high school, a Christian school, helped them start off. Lena Lönnqvist, rector of Sjövik, believes it is a good collaboration.
"Often it is easier for believing Muslims to make contact with believing Christians." People who believe can understand each other's need for prayer, for example.
Abdulkader Habib comes from Eritrea, where Muslims and Christians live together. "We were able to see and resepct each other. Much good comes out of meeting and cooperating. But in Sweden people aren't used to meeting."
Out of lectures Kista folkhögskola has a cafe with traditional Swedish and Arabic music. Abdulkader Habib hopes that it will attract many. "Many dropped contact with their traditions. We come to give a positive image of Muslim and Swedish culture. We come also to breed dialog between groups."
Abdulkader Habib has met some of those who will start learning in the school. "They are fantastic youth. They come to see, hear and fill the site with life. We come to give them what they want. They come to get a chance to discover new people and themselves."
Within a few years a Muslim organization will take over running the school. Abdulkader Habib hopes that the school will play a big role in society in the future.
"In 20 years I hope we have many cultural personalities in Sweden that come from Kista folkhögskola. Who knows, maybe a Muslim Selma Lagerlöf?" (Swedish author who won the Nobel prize)
Source: Sesam (Swedish), h/t FOMI