Swedish mosque set alight on Christmas Day


Christmas Day in the Swedish town of Eskilstuna, 55 miles west of the capital Stockholm, was marred when arsonists set fire to a mosque.

Five people were injured in the blaze, police say, when the fire started around midday, the BBC reports.

An estimated 15 to 20 people were attending midday prayers in the ground floor of the mosque, which is based in a residential building.

Local media footage shows flames and thick smoke billowing out of the building before fire fighters successfully extinguished the blaze.

“A witness saw somebody throw an object through the window of the building, which serves as a mosque, after which a violent fire began,” said Lars Franzell, a police spokesman.

And he reported that five people were taken to a local hospital for treatment of injuries ranging from smoke inhalation, lacerations and fractures.

It comes amid fierce debates in Sweden over immigration, which has traditionally had very liberal rules over migrants and asylum seekers.

Given the sighting of a missile being thrown into the building police are treating the fire as arson but say that no arrests have been made yet.

The town of Eskilstuna, sometimes called The Sheffield of Sweden for it’s proud history in steel making, has a large immigrant population including many Swedish Finns.

Earlier this year it was the scene for a series of clashes involving far right wing groups opposed to Sweden’s immigration policy.

In January, black swastikas were painted on the front door of a Stockholm mosque and in December last year neo-Nazis attacked an anti-racist protest in a Stockholm suburb where three people were sent to hospital for treatment.

“There has been an intensification of hatred against Muslims,” Sweden’s Islamic Association head Omar Mustafa told public radio SR on Thursday.

But as we reported last week, there has been a surge in support for the right wing Sweden Democrats party who are polling well in double figures ahead of the General Election next March.

A poll-of-polls for Swedish Radio puts them at 13.9 percent, up from the November ratings and their election support of 12.9 percent of voters.

Some analysts had said the surge, which saw them win 49 seats in the Riksdag with a swing of 7.2 per cent would recede as voters punished them for causing the government to fail. On the 3rd December they brought down the minority government, which had only been in power for two and a half months, by refusing to support its budget plans.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, national and international media were keen to insinuate the blame lay with the anti immigration and pro traditional Swedish traditions of the Sweden Democrats.

The party wants to cut immigration by 90 percent as well as preserve traditional Swedish cultures, in stark opposition to the other parties who want to maintain the status quo and have refused to go into coalition with the party.