Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke has suggested that Swedes who left to fight for radical Islamist groups in the Middle East should be welcomed back and helped to integrate into society.
Ms. Kuhnke made the comments Sunday evening on the television program Agenda which is transmitted by the Swedish state broadcaster SVT. The program focused on the fact that some 300 Islamic radicals from Sweden had gone to the Middle East to fight for groups like Islamic State and around half of them had returned to Sweden.
“They need to be channelled back into our democratic society,” Kuhnke said. The minister added she and the government had no idea how many of the returnees were still radicalised versus how many left because they had become disillusioned with Islamist beliefs.
When asked how many radical Muslims were involved in deradicalisation programmes, she estimated between 10 to 30 people based on information given to her by various municipalities. “There are far too few. We have to work together much better,” she noted.
Kuhnke also could not confirm that those who had been through the programmes had been successfully deradicalised, saying the process could take a decade or more. “We can not say that we have succeeded because it’s been such a short time. It is only in 10-15 years we can say that they actually managed to leave these environments,” she said.
The Swedish attitude toward returning jihadists is seen as strange by many, as several municipalities have gone above and beyond to cater for returning fighters. In the medieval city of Lund, the government is considering a range of measures including debt forgiveness, driving lessons, and free housing in the name of integrating returning extremists.