A local council member shocked his populist, anti-immigration party by suggesting the town build a mosque and cultural center to attract “enterprising” immigrants to save itself from decline.
Mark Collins, a 63-year-old member of the Sweden Democrats (SD), said that drawing immigrants to Kramfors, a small coastal municipality in the north, could help revive it.
“My idea is that if you have a mosque and a cultural center, then you empower the Muslims to be responsible for our town and the area up here,” he told the Local.
Kramfors, a town of 6,000 people, has been losing around 100 residents a year, and the newcomers would breathe new life into the area, Collins said. “Hopefully we will get a lot of them to come up and stay,” he said, defying what his right-wing, anti-immigration party typically stands for.
Adding insult to injury, he complained that there are no incentives to stay even for immigrants who settled there amid the 2015 refugee crisis. “They left as well, and I don’t blame them,” Collins stated, adding that “very cosmopolitan” immigrants “don’t want to sit in a cabin watching snowflakes fall.”
The Sweden Democrats, which distanced itself from its white nationalist roots in the early 1990s, strongly rejects multiculturalism and advocates a major overhaul of their country’s refugee and immigration policy. SD has always demanded that the government severely limit immigration, but that seems to make little sense for Collins.
“Who else is going to come up here?” he asked. Enterprising immigrants will turn Kramfors into a thriving place, he said, “because there are opportunities galore up here, but there’s just not enough people.”
The enthusiastic proposal, however, was met with little praise from SD leaders. A local party office said it has no clue about the mosque-building project, while Henrik Gustafsson, an SD spokesperson, called Collins’ reasoning “distressing.”
“He did not take a minute to either read our program or double-check with fellow party members on the matter, which is strange,” he told Swedish media.
Collins himself is an immigrant – he moved to Sweden from the United States in 1974. He joined the SD because it was the only party “that I felt was honest to me during the great immigration rush.”
However, the Sweden Democrats, who hold 49 seats in the 349-member parliament, are losing the race for popular support, he said. “They lost the debate on immigration. They [the immigrants] are here. So we can’t just sit around whining about it.”
The 810,000-strong Muslim community makes up 8.1 percent of Sweden’s population of 10 million, according to a 2017 estimate.
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