Gothenburg City Theatre has defended its decision to continue showing a controversial play, whose writer and director says aims to “humanise” terrorists after an Islamist attack struck Sweden Friday.
Still showing at the theatre, the play Jihadisten tells the story of a young man in Sweden who heads to Syria to join a terrorist organisation, after being “slowly radicalised”.
Its writer and director Johan Gry told SVT last month: “The aim [of the play] is to humanise the terrorist, so to speak, and we are daring to show how he is a human being.”
Going on to equate people who lack sympathy for Islamic terrorists with Islamic State and similar violent groups, he said: “For if we are not brave enough to do that, then we dehumanise this person in the same way as [Islamic terrorists] dehumanise their victims.
“If we cannot understand, or try to understand these people, we will not be able to do anything about the problem.”
After it premiered in Gothenburg at the end of March, the play gathered criticism from several figures in Sweden.
Robert Hannah, a member of Swedish parliament with an Assyrian and Christian Iraqi background, said the play ‘romanticises’ Islamist terror and makes excuses for genocide.
But despite the work’s controversy, Gothenburg City Theatre’s artistic director Pontus Stenshäll said Jihadisten is more important than ever following Friday’s deadly truck attack in Stockholm, the alleged perpetrator of which had posted Islamic State propaganda on Facebook and ‘liked’ pictures of casualties after the terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon in 2013.
“[Islamic terrorism] is a terrible and serious problem that we need to discuss,” he told SVT, confirming the play’s content will remain unchanged following the Stockholm terror attack.
But Stenhäll pointed out the second half of Jihadisten — which is split into two parts, the first consisting of a traditional play which is then followed by a discussion involving the audience and “experts on the driving forces behind young people’s decision to join terror groups” — will be different.
“Naturally, the discussion will be dominated by what happened,” he predicted.
“It is an important part of the show, and always takes into account current events which are happening around the world.”
After the truck attack in Stockholm, Greater Gothenburg police chief Erik Nord said Sweden should be able to deport migrants who vocalise support for “violent extremism”.
But Justice Minister Morgan Johansson slapped down the suggestion and demanded the police chief “explain himself”.
Defending the right of extremists to stay in Sweden, the Social Democratic party politician pointed to the nation’s “freedom of speech”, but added that this doesn’t include “hate speech”.
Johansson also warned that migrants could risk “persecution” in their homelands, if they were deported.