In the worst series of attacks targeting the peaceful Sweden Muslim minority, a third mosque arson was reported on Thursday in Sweden’s fourth largest city Uppsala, as police launched a manhunt for perpetrators.
“Someone threw a firebomb, a Molotov cocktail at the building,” Torsten Hemlin a spokesman for Uppsala police told Swedish news agency TT, adding that the mosque in eastern Sweden did not catch fire, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
“They also wrote some vulgar racist words,” he said, adding that no one was in the building at the time.
Reporting the attack, Sweden’s Islamic Association posted a photograph online of the main door of the mosque which was emblazoned with the slogan “Go home Muslim shit”.
According to news sources, police forces were alerted by passers-by who reportedly saw a man throw a burning object at the mosque at around 0430 GMT.
“The crime has been classed as attempted arson, vandalism and incitement to hatred,” the police said in a statement appealing for eyewitnesses to come forward.
Mosques in Sweden have been subject to growing numbers of attacks in recent months.
Thursday’s attack came just three days after a late night blaze at a mosque in Esloev in southern Sweden which police suspect was also arson.
On Christmas day, five people were hurt in another fire at a mosque in Eskilstuna in central Sweden.
According to the anti-racism magazine Expo, there have been at least a dozen confirmed attacks on mosques in Sweden in the last year and a far larger number are believed to have gone unreported.
Muslims make up between 450,000 and 500,000 of Sweden’s nine million people, according to the US State Department report in 2011.
In 2013, around 300 hate crimes against Muslims were reported in Sweden.
Such incidents are on the rise according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet).
Muslim groups have called on politicians to join vigils in several cities around the country Friday to show their opposition to racially-motivated violence.
“People are afraid, they fear for their safety,” Mohammad Kharraki a spokesman for Sweden’s Islamic Association, said.
“We’ve seen through history that people use violence as a way of polarising the society against minorities.”
Known for tolerance and refugee-friendly policies, Sweden saw the rise of extreme right party, the Sweden Democrats, in September legislative elections when he became the third-largest force in parliament.
In early December, the party brought down the government after less than three months by refusing to back its budget proposal in parliament.
On Saturday the government announced it had reached a deal with the opposition that will enable it to remain in power and to avert the country’s first snap elections in more than half a century, but the far right has threatened to hold a no-confidence vote.
Kharraki said the arson attacks could be carried out by “Sweden Democrats people who are angry because they’ve been pushed aside.”
“They think Muslims are the problem,” he said, while “mainstream political parties have taken a stand against racism and Islamophobia.”
However, a spokesman for the Sweden Democrats said there was no reason to consider the attacks to be politically motivated.
“This is not political, it’s criminal. It’s criminals doing this and it’s a police matter, not a political question,” said Henrik Vinge.
“This type of violence is something we take very seriously…. It’s unacceptable of course.” ONISLAM