In a tall, blond government, a small, Burundi-born black woman like
Nyamko Sabuni - who is Minister For Integration and Equality and seeks to become
Sweden's first black prime minister - will stand out. It is also the former
refugee and center-right politician’s outspoken views that have demanded
attention in Sweden.
She wants a ban on the veil for under-15s
and compulsory gynecological checks for all schoolgirls to protect against
genital mutilation masquerading as “female circumcision”. Her views have led to
death threats and round-the-clock protection in Europe’s most tolerant
Being appointed minister provoked a petition signed by 50
Muslim organizations declaring that she “breathed populism and Islamophobia”.
Minister Sabuni, age 38, whose mother was a Muslim but who describes herself as
“not religious”, is unrepentant. “Arranged marriage is not something recommended
by Islam,” she said. “Nor is genital mutilation. Many people say this is our
tradition, our religion. But it is unacceptable, whatever the reason. I will not
be scared into silence. I will never accept that women and girls are oppressed
in the name of religion.”
Sweden has been good to Minister Sabuni. It welcomed her father and his
seven children as political refugees from Congo when she was 12. She studied at
Uppsala University, became a member of the Swedish Parliament at age 32, and
married a native Swedish travel agent with whom she has twin boys. Her views
were formed by the way that her Christian father found work quickly and helped
her family to integrate into Swedish life.
Minister Sabuni has never made any secret of her ambition to be
Sweden’s first black Prime Minister. Some see parallels between her and
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born refugee who renounced Islam, became a
Dutch parliamentarian and spoke out against the religion, only to relocate in
the United States after a row about her asylum application. “We are
compared because we are both young, we are both black, we are both politicians,”
Minister Sabuni said. “The mission of Ayaan is to reform Islam. My mission is
not to reform Islam, my mission is to say that certain traditions are
Minister Sabuni believes that Sweden must move away from its generous
welfare benefits culture to improve social cohesion and ethnic integration as
well as boost the economy. Some also argue that this country of nine million has
already taken its fair share of immigrants, leading to the social tensions
behind Muslim rioting last month in Malmo.
Minister Sabuni believes that the solution is not fewer migrants but
more jobs. The Government pays as much as three-quarters of the starting salary
for an immigrant in his or her first job. In another very Swedish solution, she
is also pushing for a “Guarantee of Activities” program that will match the
jobless with useful social tasks, such as reading to pupils or helping the
She wants the rest of Europe to adopt the same generous approach to
asylum-seekers as Sweden, which has taken more Iraqis than any other European
Union country – an acceptance rate of 90% compared with Britain’s 12%. “They
come to Sweden because they know there is a positive policy. We would rather see
the EU start acting the way we do than we have to act like they do”, said
Minister Sabuni. Minister Sabuni added that her demand to ban the veil for
schoolgirls was a contribution to a debate that she believes that Sweden needs
before it reaches the same level of anxiety about ethnic integration as Britain.
“The mentality in Britain has been very tolerant and accepting but now you have
a problem that suddenly you realised, gosh, there are some values we have to
defend,” she said.
I'm not too sure about her ideas. Obviously, I like her economic ideas. I like the idea of pushing back against the veil, and against genital mutilation. However, I don't agree with her open door policy on immigration from Muslim nations. She says the answer is more jobs. But, there are more jobs in Britain. The Muslims who have been causing the trouble in Britain have generally been middle class to upper middle class.
But, she is definitely an improvement over other Swedish politicians.