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Between Salafism and Salafi-Jihadism – Influence and Challenges for Swedish Society

Researchers at the Swedish Defence University have published a report commissioned by The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) entitled Between Salafism and Salafi-Jihadism – Influence and Challenges for Swedish Society. The report provides a unique survey of influence operations within Salafi-Jihadi milieus in Sweden.

The report investigates how local actors perceive and experience the influence of Salafist and Salafi-Jihadi milieus on local communities across Sweden. The study comprises some 70 interviews with representatives from different government agencies as well as journalists and representatives from civil society. In addition to this, material has been collected from public records and social media.

— We can see that the Salafi-Jihadi milieus continue to grow underground in several locations across Swedish communities. Our study provides a unique overview of what these environments look like and how they have developed over time. At the same time, Salafism grows stronger in certain deprived areas such as north-eastern Gothenburg. Salafi influence in these areas is chiefly aimed towards other Muslims, particularly women and young people. We believe that Salafi propaganda has contributed to more Swedes travelling to Syria to join Jihadi movements, says Magnus Ranstorp.

Salafism and Salafi-Jihadism is a relatively new research field and there are few studies pertaining to Salafi-Jihadi milieus in a Swedish context. In particular, there is research gap when it comes to connections between Salafism and Salafi-Jihadism.

— The knowledge gaps are great and our report aims to broaden the understanding of messages and methods of influence within these milieus. However, more cross-disciplinary research initiatives are needed in several areas, says Magnus Ranstorp, such as:

  • Salafism in society, its influence and the importance of separating Islam as religious practice, Islamism as political ideology and Salafism in varying forms
  • foreign funding of Swedish mosques and religious organisations
  • the role of Koranic schools and whether anti-democratic norms and values are taught and affect children and young people
  • religious influence operations and its influence on honour-related culture

The report is written by Magnus Ranstorp, Filip Ahlin, Peder Hyllengren and Magnus Normark at the Centre for Societal Security (CTSS) at the Swedish Defence University.

Published 2019-05-27 Updated 2019-05-27