Sweden: Muslim community fears violence after attack on elderly couple
An elderly couple was attacked last Monday when trying to park their car in the Swedish town of Landskrona.
The couple were trying to park, but another car was in their way. They honked and parked. But the young man (23) in the other car rolled down his window and asked why they honked. An altercation started. The young man became so upset, he threw the car door on the 71 year old man, Sven, who fell down. The young man then started beating the 71 year old.
The older man's 78 year old wife, Inger, tried to intervene, but was punched in the face and fainted.
The younger man fled in his car. The elderly couple were brought to the hospital. The 71 year was in shock and had injuries to his face and back. The 78 year old was brought to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. She died of her injuries Wednesday.
The 23 year old suspect is married and has a newborn daughter. He's the youngest of three brothers, and all three are involved in the investigation. The oldest (39), owns the car while the younger one (36) admits he was present during the attack. The police say they have several witnesses and at least 20 people who say the suspect was the murderer.
The suspect is described by his former school friends as shy and quiet. "He was calm and composed and a good student," said one of them.
Another suspect was recently arrested and charged with aiding and abetting the murder. The new suspect (25) is, according to the police, in the 23 year old's 'circle of friends and relatives'.
A church in the southern Swedish town of Landskrona was almost full at lunchtime on Monday as people turned out in force in an anti-violence demonstration organized after the violent death of a 78 year old local woman last week.
"We are deeply shocked and saddened and have difficulty understanding that this tragedy has really happened," said Othman Tawalbeh to the TT news agency outside Sofia Albertina church.
After the church demonstration, people moved a short distance to lay flowers and light candles in the town square.
"Today i'm proud to be from Landskrona," the town's mayor Torkild Strandberg told TT.
Ashraf Mahjoub from one of the muslim associations in Landskrona told TT that he was also happy with the show of feelings against violence but was unhappy that the 23 year old suspect held by police, who denies all involvement, had his identity and address put out on facebook.
"His family have been threatened. He is convicted in advance." he told TT.
Muslim associations participated in the demonstration.
"We are deeply shocked and saddened and can hardly believe that this tragedy happened," said Othman Tawalbeh of the Muslim Association.
In his speech he protested against the "we and them" attitude spreading in society.
"Violence has no ethnicity, it has no religion," he said in response to the online hate-campaign against the suspect, who is of immigrant background.
Reverend Bengt Karlgren said that hate and violence increase the distance between people and how dangerous it is to judge others based on gossip and rumors. "You and I are not responsible for judging others. That's what we have the police and courts for".
Four Islamic and Arab associations called for a press conference in order to calm the unrest in Landskrona after the fatal beating of Inger, 78. Though the associations call it an accident, while the police classifies it as a murder.
"We are waiting and respect what comes from the police investigation. Right now we have this response," said Said Hadrous, head of Islamic group 194 in Landskrona.
"We have a feeling that there's an agenda of a certain party which, unfortunately, wants to exploit this situation to their advantage," said Said Hadrous.
The four associations condemned the murder. "With all respect, we share the grief of the woman's family and relatives," said Bassam Ahmad, spokesperson for Group 194.
The associations treat the murder very seriously, but also warn the incident can "cause xenophobia in our society".
They stress Landskorna should be united.
"This incident makes us all stand united to fight, resist and deal with issues that are causing insecurity, regardless of ethnicity or religion, in order to protect society and keep it safe from epidemics, crime, abuse and misuse, which adversely affect the structure in our multi-ethnic and multicultural society," he said.
"We want all threats to cease and that people shouldn't generalize."
"We thought that it [the press conference] was necessary since there are such restless feelings in the city now. We call for calm, waiting for what the police investigation will show," says Bassam Ahmad.
Group 194 participated in the Church demonstration.
"I think it's important that everybody will know that we Arab and Muslim association in the city reject violence and the behavior that caused this woman's death. We think we have this responsibility since we are part of society," said Bassam Ahmad.
The family of the 23 year old confirms the incident, but they say it was an accident.
The suspect's two brothers, who had both been interrogated, were at the press conference. The suspect's 36 year old brother read a statement from the family. He said the family shared their condolences with the family of the deceased Inger (78), but also said: "We are very worn out and do not feel good at all, our children have been badly affected and scared. The accident caused us enormous grief in our lives."
The family says they've received death threats after the suspect's identity was published online, and one of the brothers said he doesn't dare let his children go to school. The suspect's wife got a call from someone saying they'll kill her children.
The 36 year old brother said his wife and children have left Landskrona. They can't sleep but are terrified and do not feel good at all. They see all the police who came in to the apartment to arrest their father.
The 36 year old told about the interrogation in detail. But they refused to answer questions about the fatal beating in the car park.
"We know nothing about this," the 39 year old said.
According to the suspect's lawyer, the suspect denies everything. His lawyer also said that the suspect was threatened by phone and by internet, that those threats have racist characteristics and that he's taken it up the issue of his protection with the police.
Ferki Hamad, an imam in Landskrona, has known the family for several years.
"Their situation is very complicated. They've got phone calls all night yesterday and the day before. Those who call say 'we will kill your children'" he says.
He thinks the police should take the threats seriously and compares the situation with a case where a rape suspect boy and his family recieved police protection after they were threatened.
"In Landskorna it's about somebody who died. This is bigger. I think that the police need to take greater responsibility for the family."
Ferki Hamad was very surprised when he heard of the suspicions against the 23 year old, whom he describes as quiet and well-behaved.
"If he's guilty we won't say that he's innocent. Then he must pay for what he's done. But it's the court which decides."
He condemns what happens but emphasizes that it's not something that should polarize people who live in Landskrona.
"We are mourning with Inger's family and hope that such things never happen again. But we must work together to protect society from violence, otherwise integration is harmed. Everybody loses by this."
Police detective Tommy Lindén says that the family is safe in Landskorna and that from his experience, they're playing the victim card in order to give them a better negotiating position. The police have mobilized in Landskrona to meet the increased risk of violence. For those who still feel insecure, but do not have the financial means to leave town, the municipality is ready to help.
Sources: Aftonbladet 1, 2, 3, 4, SR, SVT, KVP, SvD (Swedish), The Local (English)