The civil society leader & the absent media

[One of a series]

Asking them: Insider perspectives on immigration and integration

This is the full photo of the header image (the picture behind this blog’s title) – it’s from  the front of the Malmö section of Sweden’s national newspaper Sydsvenskan (March 29 2009).   Sydsvenskan is a broadsheet – it isn’t known for tabloid-style reporting, it calls its editorial stance ‘independent liberal’, and it seems to be fairly respected (within the spectrum of people’s feelings about media!).

The woman in the photo is not Taghrid, the woman I write about below.

The sign that this woman is holding says ‘Stop fighting, and ruining [/destroying] my Rosengard!’

Rosengård is a region within the city of Malmö in Skåne, Sweden – about half an hour over the bridge to Copenhagen, Denmark.  Malmö has a population of under 300,000 with immigrants from many different countries, including a high number from Iraq.

Many Swedes seem to have very strong opinions about Rosengård.   As a foreigner, it’s often difficult and very confusing trying to make sense of what is factual in the ways that people talk about it.    Often if I told someone I had a meeting in the area, they reacted with alarm.

Several  people told me that it is true that firefighters will not respond to calls in Rosengård unless they have police escort.

On another hand:   The things that I was told would happen to me if I went to Rosengård, didn’t happen. Some say that I was just naive/lucky.   Others, like some I interviewed at the municipality, said they’ve had hundreds of meetings there and never had any problems.

Rosengård citizens have become annoyed and frustrated about media sensationalizing of their neighbourhood .  When I was interviewing at Rosengårdsskolan, the Imam told me that they became fed up with negative-only stories.  Journalists are now forbidden anywhere at the school.

Sweden’s image in the world is that it is has an active civil society,  pretty strong multicultural tolerance, and is a very peaceful country where everyone gets along.  Inevitably when I tell people about some of the complexities around integration, and about the almost-daily stories about Rosengard in the news, inevitably the baffled response is, “in Sweden??!”

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