Sweden: Christian Social Democrats turn to Muslims
The Swedish Association of Christian Social Democrats (AKA 'The Brotherhood Movement') celebrated their 80th anniversary at a congress in Malmö last weekend.
Eva-Lena Gustavsson, chairperson for the Brotherhood Movement in Värmland, was re-elected at the congress to the board.
"One thing which was somewhat unique at this year's congress was that we worked a lot with religious dialog. We were out in Malmö's biggest mosque, Islamic Center, and held talks about the boundaries of religion, and held a joint service led by both an imam and a priest of the Church of Sweden. I thought it was a powerful experience!" she says.
She says there are many Muslims and Jews who want to join the Brotherhood Movement, and some who've already done so. And she points that that nobody is asked which church they belong to. They're also discussing a change of name, maybe to "Sweden's Religious Social Democrats".
Eva-Lena Gustavsson says that the movement was started by social-democratic railway workers who found it difficult to be Christian in the union movement, and difficult to be socialist in the Christian associations. She thinks that many Muslims experience something similar today.
She says she doesn't think the dividing lines go between religions, but rather within the religions. The Brotherhood Movement sees the Christian Democrats and the Christian right as their main opponents.
The congress elected its' first representative from the Orthodox Church this year, and now they want to add Muslims as well. In the last congress two years ago it was decided to have a network for believers (including non-Christians) within the Brotherhood. It's led by Abdulkader Habib, a Muslims, who's currently a temporary member of the board. The Nominating Committee's stated goal is to have a Muslim on the board at the next congress.
Peter Weiderud, chairman of the organization was reelected for his fifth year. He sees no contradiction in opening up the board of a Christian Leftist organizations to Muslims.
"We're not a church, but rather a political organization." He says Muslims who want to be politically active in Sweden can experience the same homelessness as politically engaged Christians did during the Brotherhood Movement's early years.
"Swedish society and the political parties, even our own, don't understand the Muslims who want to participate in politics, inspired by their faith. Therefore we've become important for a group of Muslims."
Peter Weiderud is uncertain as to what the Muslim involvement in the Brotherhood movement will lead to in the long term. He says that maybe with time the Muslims will create their own parallel organization and then they will naturally work together under one umbrella. He says they're naturally open and generous, and do not base their identity on demarcating themselves against others. "Dialog is enriching."
In 2006 the SVT investigative show "Uppdrag granskning" questioned the Brotherhood Movement's cooperation with Muslim representatives. They criticized the contacts with Mahmoud Aldebe, chairman of the Swedish Muslim Association, who called for introduction of Sharia laws. The criticism caused the then party-head Göran Persson to request the brotherhood movement to review which Muslims organization they had contacts with.
Peter Weiderud thinks the TV program was not objective and biased. "We must conduct a dialog also with people who think differently, and we don't fear it. Since it should be understood that all contacts are made judiciously and I think that we've learned to find good way to talk with Muslims who are serious and represent the Muslims in Sweden.
Source: VF, Världen idag (Swedish)