Thursday, December 16, 2010

Terror Bombing in Sweden: Troops, Cartoons, a Widow, and Questions

I haven't written much about Sweden.

In a blog like this one, that's a good thing.

It looks like folks in Sweden, and folks here in central Minnesota, celebrate the Christmas season in about the same way. No big surprise there, considering how many Scandinavians live in this part of the world. I'm half-Norwegian, myself - and that's another topic. Sort of.

That explains why folks were doing a particular sort of shopping in Stockholm last Saturday.

Holiday Shopping: Snow, Festive Decorations, and a Botched Bombing

"Eyewitnesses have told of the moment an apparent suicide bomber blew himself up just a stone's throw from Stockholm's busiest shopping street on Saturday.
" 'We were scared to death,' said one local resident.

"The man died on the intersection of the Drottninggatan thoroughfare and Bryggargatan, a side street.

"An eyewitness interviewed by the Dagens Nyheter newspaper (DN) said something appeared to have blown up against the man's abdomen.

" 'He had no injuries to his face or the rest of his body and the shops around him were not damaged,' he said.

"The eyewitness, a paramedic identified only as Pascal, said he removed a 'Palestinian scarf' from the man's face in an attempt to free up his airways. Next to the man's body was a two-metre piece of metal piping...."
(The Local)
Good news: Only one person died. Bad news: somebody died.

Well, as we say here in Minnesota, "it could be worse."

A Wannabe Murderer, a Widow, and Lots of Questions

The wannabe mass murderer has been identified. He's Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly: a married man whose death left a widow and lots of questions.

Like whether someone else is likely to have a shot at killing holiday shoppers. That's not an unreasonable question, in my opinion. The impression I get from the news is that Swedish law enforcement and related officials are walking through a common-sense investigation. Which, as of Sunday, pointed to the bombing being a one-man act:
"Police said on Sunday they were treating bomb blasts in Stockholm as an act of terrorism by a lone attacker that followed an emailed threat referring to Sweden's troops in Afghanistan and to cartoons of Mohammad.

"Police stopped short of calling Saturday afternoon's blasts, which killed the suspected bomber and wounded two people, a suicide attack. A car blew up in a busy shopping area, followed minutes later by a second explosion nearby.

"Shortly before the blasts, Swedish news agency TT received a threatening letter referring to Sweden's presence in Afghanistan and caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad drawn by a Swedish cartoonist. The letter included digital sound files with a recording in broken Swedish and in Arabic....

"...TT said the letter promised attacks over Sweden's presence in Afghanistan, where it has 500 troops with the U.S.-led NATO force, and the cartoons drawn three years ago by Lars Vilks...."
Those cartoons keep surfacing, metaphorically speaking: sort of like a dead muskrat in a pond.

That was Sunday. As of yesterday, it's pretty obvious that those Swedes who look after the country's security are still walking through that investigation.
"Some 200 possibly violent Islamic extremists live in Sweden, according to an intelligence report released Wednesday after the country's first-ever suicide bombing narrowly missed Christmas shoppers.

" 'The group of active members ... consists of just under 200 individuals,' the Säpo intelligence agency said in its 126-page report, based on data from 2009 and scheduled to be published before the weekend's attack in central Stockholm...."
(The Swedish Wire)

Swedish Muslims, Numbers, and a Comparison

Two hundred is a biggish number. Compared to Sweden's 9,074,000 or so citizens (As of July this year) , though: not so much. ("Sweden," The World Factbook, CIA (last updated December 8, 2010))
I'd compare the 200-odd hotheads in that group to the number of Swedish Muslims, but that'd take more digging than I've got time for today. The resource I used for Sweden's population says that 87% of folks living in Sweden are Lutheran. The other 13% are "other." That "includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist." If all 13% of folks in Sweden who aren't Lutheran followed Islam, that'd be around 1,179,000 people. Still a lot more than 200.

A Wikipedia article says that Islam accounts for about 5% of the Swedish population: around 450,000 to 500,000 Muslims. It's one of the articles that cites references, and five percent of 9,074,000 is about 453,700, so they may be right.

Let's say it's the lower number: 450,000 Muslims. Two hundred or so are in this group. That's 200/450,000, or 1/2,250 of Swedish Muslims.

Abstractions are - abstract. One way I have, for making numbers 'real,' is to use something I'm familiar with as a comparison.

This'll be useful for me: for you, maybe not so much. I share a small town in central Minnesota with about 4,000 other people. If one out of 2,250 of us were part of a nutcase group that wanted to kill people they didn't agree with - there would be two or three people in the group, depending on whether you round up or down.

That'd be a real concern for me and my neighbors: but it would not indicate that the folks living here are dangerous.

"They're All Muslims" - Let's Not Go There

The point? The wannabe murderer almost certainly killed himself for "religious" reasons. Maybe 200 other people in Sweden have the same sort of ideas sloshing around in their heads.

There's little reason to assume that all Muslims in Sweden should be shot on sight, or at least locked up, because "they're all Muslims." (February 15, 2008, December 29, 2007) A case could be built, using that sort of logic, for pointing to what Joseph Burgess did and advocating that all Christians be locked up because they're murderers. He killed people - apparently for "religious" reasons - too. (A Catholic Citizen in America (July 24, 2009))

There are days when I feel that it wouldn't take much of a shove for America, or any other Western country, to start locking up Muslims, Christians, and other terrorists - for the good of the nation, of course. Sounds crazy? So did what a think tank came up with, not all that long ago. (April 4, 2009, April 1, 2009, A Catholic Citizen in America (March 23, 2009))

One of the reasons that I'm rather concerned about how Muslims are treated in countries where they're a religious minority - is that I'm a member of a religious minority myself. Think of it as enlightened self interest.

One More Tangent: Security Cameras, "Privacy," and Getting a Grip

I don't know how most Americans feel about security cameras at intersections and in stores: but apparently quite a few folks in this country's dominant culture don't like them. At all.

It has to do with notions of "privacy," it seems.

As nearly as I can tell, these folks say "privacy," where I'd say "anonymity."
Privacy, Bank Codes, and a Door on the Outhouse
I think "privacy" is a good idea, by the way. A dictionary says it means "the quality of being secluded from the presence or view of others." (Princeton's WordNet) A desire for privacy is part of why we put doors on the outhouse not all that long ago, don't generally have floor-to-ceiling windows in the shower today - and don't, for the most part, tell strangers how to access our bank account.

That sort of privacy make sense. Besides, it gets cold in the winter around here: so those outhouse doors served a practical function, too.

Now, about those cameras in the convenience store.

As I said, I live in a small town in central Minnesota. It's a little bigger than the places where 'if you forget what you did during the day, ask someone: they'll know.' But not by much. I love it here: but this is not a place where I can go out and not be noticed.

Or not go out and not be noticed. Not too long ago a neighbor asked if I'd been okay: that person hadn't seen me for a while.

Like I say, I love it here. But living in a town where a sizable fraction of the population know you by sight and many of those have at least a modest interest in your welfare - obviously isn't for everybody.

Some folks seem to prefer living among tens of thousands of other anonymous faces, where they could disappear and not be missed. Places like that, in my opinion, need security cameras to take up some of the slack when it comes to looking out for folks.

We've got those glass-eyed sentinels here in Sauk Centre, too: in some of the stores and at least one parking lot.

Here's what got me thinking about security cameras, "privacy," and the human condition:
"Police in Sweden are increasingly convinced the Stockholm bomber had an accomplice after fresh analysis of his suicide tape revealed the presence of a second person by his side.

"Experts who have scrutinised the recording say someone can be heard breathing in the background as Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly vows to kill innocent civilians.

"Almost a week after Abdulwahab blew himself up in a shopping street in Stockholm, injuring two people, detectives have also failed to find any trace of explosives in properties linked to the bomber, suggesting someone else could have made the bombs at an unknown location.

"Police hope that if the bomber did meet an accomplice in the days before the bombing, the rendezvous might have been caught on CCTV. Hundreds of hours of recordings from CCTV cameras in Stockholm and his home town of Tranas have been seized and are now being scrutinised by investigators. ..."
(The Telegraph)
Which brings up the subject of conspiracies, real and imagined - and that's another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:


Brigid said...

Awkward: "folks in Sweden celebrate the Christmas season about the same we do here, in central, Minnesota."

Missing double space: "widow and lots of questions.
Like whether someone"

Might sound better with a 'the': "it's pretty obvious that Swedes who look after"

A? "A Wikipedia says"

Another missing double space: "ideas sloshing around in their heads.
There's little reason"

And another: "access our bank account.
That sort of privacy make sense."

Typo: "a sizable fraction of the population known you by sight"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Hoo boy. This post was an example of why one shouldn't write in a rush.

That didn't come out right.

Thanks, fixed!

Anonymous said...

Myself a Swede, I think my people are learning a lesson, waking up, finally, to grim realities. Personally, I have nothing against muslims generally. I live in Stockholm, where tere's plenty of them, particularly Iranians. (Stockholm has been called "Little Teheran".) I have nice experience, they are often good people, easy to meet and get along with. But this incident, it was simply bound to happen, and we must do something about it. The best we can do, in my opinion, is to withdraw from Afghanistan and take distance to USA. Our governement, alas, is steering towards disaster.



- Yours, Peter Ingestad, Sweden

Anonymous said...

And you should know, this madman is NOT alone. Swedish islamists has expressed quite a lot of sympathy. They are NOT few, so you bet we have a problem over'n up here.

Fowl Ideas said...

You're far more likely to be harmed or killed by one of your relatives, neighbors, or classmates in America.

I'm just not that worried about terrorists.

Brian H. Gill said...

Peter Ingestad,

Thanks for a more 'inside' look at this situation.

Possibly because of my family history, I'm cautious about making generalizations about 'those foreigners.' I'm inclined - strongly - to think that people from any group are individuals. Which I think was one of your points.

Unhappily, it doesn't take all that many people to make trouble.

Brian H. Gill said...

Fowl Ideas,

I prefer to not worry, myself. Be concerned, when appropriate, yes: worry, no.

About "in America?" True enough. Although I haven't noted a marked presence of perfection in any region.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.