Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, a member of Sweden’s Jewish community and an adviser to Sweden’s Liberal Party, plans to submit an asylum application to the Swedish Migration Board this week.
She said she wants authorities to extend to Jews the kind of protection afforded to others who have well-founded reasons to fear persecution due to their religious beliefs.
“People from all over the world seek refuge in my country in order to be who they are and to live freely. I want this for them, and I want this for us,” said Ms Hernroth-Rothstein.
“In my work I read bills to ban circumcision and bills to forbid the importation and serving of kosher meat. Kosher slaughter has been outlawed in Sweden since 1937. I also follow the asylum debate closely and realised that Swedish Jews live up to the criteria for seeking asylum in this country — because we’re being persecuted.
“Culturally, Jewish life in Sweden is thriving,” said Ms Hernroth-Rothstein. “There’s a Jewish film festival, a Jewish museum, klezmer concerts and so on. So, I’m always told that we’re fine, that I’m exaggerating. But I believe we have to fight for the human right to live as religious people.”
Ms Hernroth-Rothstein said many Jews in Sweden avoid displaying Jewish symbols for fear of harassment, and said she herself once faced abuse from a Muslim man while on the bus with her five-year-old son.
But, she added, an even greater threat comes from people in power who set the tone for the public debate and who are pushing for anti-religious legislation.
“We are known for being liberal in Sweden, but there’s a difference between liberalism and freedom. But Sweden is apparently not liberal enough to allow people to be religious.”
Ms Hernroth-Rothstein said many within the Jewish community react negatively to her public statements about the threat to Jewish life in Sweden, but she maintained that, in the long run, Swedish Jews my face two choices: assimilation or expulsion.
“When it comes to religious observance, there’s great discomfort and we Jews are not united enough. We should be out on the streets protesting.”
Ms Hernroth-Rothstein said she hopes her asylum application will bring attention to the threats to Jewish life in Sweden and that it will spark debate.