Any religious congregation in Sweden that receives state funding is also expected to “uphold and reinforce the basic values of Swedish society”.
Among other things, this involves promoting equal rights between the sexes, and that congregations are to promote efforts to counteract discrimination, violence and brutality.
Uppdrag granskning (Assignment Investigate), the investigative current affairs program of Swedish television (SVT) , went undercover with hidden camera to mosques around the country to find out what the real situation was. Equipped with a hidden camera and a list of four identical questions, our associates sought out Sweden’s most influential mosques and their representatives.
Half of these mosques receive state funding, while the others are supported by municipal funds. Seven mosques were visited in person, while three more congregations were consulted over the phone.
The mission was to establish what guidance was given to women in the following four areas: May a man take more than one wife? Does a woman have the right to deny her husband sex? Are husbands permitted to beat their wives? And if she is beaten, may she contact the police?
The answers they received, which were also recorded, reveal that there is a huge discrepancy between the official picture and the actual values Muslim congregations communicate when they are unaware of the fact that they are being monitored.
One of Sweden’s most respected, and well-frequented, mosques is located at the heart of Stockholm, at Medborgarplatsen. The government turns to the religious leaders there as being representative of the Muslim community in Sweden. As recently as February, Minister for Public Administration, Stefan Attefall, attended a Friday prayer service there.
The Family Counsellor at this particular mosque replied to the questions presented by Assignment: Investigate undercover associate as follows: Men are allowed to take four wives, as long as he treats them fairly.
He went on to say that a wife should never deny her husband sex, not even if he has beaten her, or has taken another wife.
In addition to this, he discourages women from contacting the police:
“If you do call the police that could cause trouble. Do you know why? Because the police will take him into custody,” the Imam admonished.
Only two of the ten religious representatives felt women should go to the police. Two left the decision up to the woman herself. The remaining six discouraged any such action, and said that issues like these should be resolved by the families themselves.
In Malmö, the beating was even made light of. The man our associates spoke to used his own arm to demonstrate how hard it is okay to hit. “Never, ever even consider going to the police,” was his advice.
At nine of the Muslim congregations, Uppdrag gransknings associates were informed that the Koran, in certain circumstances, gives men the right to take several wives.
Six of the representatives were taped as they explained how according to the Koran, a Muslim woman is not allowed to deny her husband sex – it is his right, even against her will.
Dr. Mohammad Fazlhashemi, PhD, a professor of History of Ideas at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Umeå University, and a practising Muslim himself, believes that the response expresses a patriarchal tradition more than anything else: “This needs to be laid to rest. Relationships between men and women simply cannot be regulated by this type of perspective.”
Dr. Fazlhashemi goes on to say that this conservative, ultra-orthodox and patriarchal interpretation of Islam is being called into question in Sweden and throughout Europe: “I believe that an overwhelming majority does not wish to have this type of Imam in charge.”
How many of Sweden’s 400,000 Muslims do you believe agree with an Imam who says that domestic strife is to be addressed in the family only, that women are never to deny their husbands sex, and that men may take more than one wife?
“It’s difficult to say, but my immediate response is that very few would be in favour of such degrading treatment,” Dr. Fazlhashemi says in closing.