Top Swedish politician takes heat for claiming Jews, minorities ‘not Swedes’

Bjorn Soder, a senior member of the Swedish Democrats who currently serves as deputy speaker of parliament, made the remarks on the Facebook page of Sweden’s Centre Party, in response to allegations of racism from the party’s leader, Annie Loof.

“Annie Loof adversely affects the position of Jews and Sami in Sweden when she indirectly claims that they are Swedes,” he wrote. “These groups have minority positions in Sweden just because they are not Swedes. Shame on you Annie Lööf for your racist attitude.”

Loof had previously criticized comments made by Soder in 2014, in which he said that while Sami, Jews, and other minority groups enjoy Swedish citizenship, they are still part of their own distinct ethnic groups. The Sami are an indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting Sapmi, which today encompasses large parts of Norway and Sweden, northern parts of Finland, and Murmansk Region in Russia.

Loof published a screen grab of what she said were Soder’s comments, on her Instagram account, claiming that they revealed his party’s racist undertones.

“The problem with the Sweden Democrats is not just their history, but also that their dividing up of people continues even today. And at the highest levels of their leadership,” she wrote. “As a citizen you are Swedish, whether you belong to a national minority or not.”

Not everyone agreed with Loof’s assessment, however. “Why, for example, should a man be forced to see himself Swedish in the first place when he / she does not see it himself? Because you like it?” One Instagram user wrote in response to her post.

Soder’s comments were reported to the authorities as a potential hate crime, according to local media reports. However, police dropped their investigation shortly after receiving the complaint, it is said.

Speaking with national broadcaster SVT about the incident, Soder accused Loof of engaging in “low” tactics, taking his comments out of context to score cheap political points.

“It is up to each individual to identify their own nationality. When we speak of minorities, it is to support their distinction and special rights. To accuse me is to twist it all 180 degrees and deliberately misinterpret the whole debate,” Soder told SVT.

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