Despite Backlash on Hijab, Swedish City Proceeds with Diversity Campaign

STOCKHOLM – A Swedish city officials have vowed to continue their support for inclusion after their ad campaign to celebrate diversity by posting the photo of a hijabi Muslim woman was attacked by far-right media, The Local reported.

“We have and will continue to include Muslim women, with and without a veil,” said Johan Adolfsson, the municipal press officer in the central Swedish city of Gävle.

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Over the past week, the image of a hijabi Muslim teacher appeared on a digital billboard welcoming visitors to Gävle.

The woman was one of 100 residents of Gävle nominated by fellow locals and chosen to represent the city in a publicity campaign celebrating the fact the city’s population passed 100,000 in 2017.

The teacher, who grew up in Gävle and became a practicing Muslim in her late teens, was chosen because of her work with children, despite a cancer diagnosis.

The jury’s explanation for her nomination described her as someone who “is always in a good mood and never gives up” and said that most students and teachers in the city knew the teacher and had positive things to say about her.

“We let Gävle residents freely nominate people they saw as good ambassadors for the city. A jury, also made up of Gävle residents, then chose 100 ambassadors, who were all photographed and these photos were put up in different places around Gävle,” Adolfsson said.

The image was widely shared on social media as far-right groups misrepresented the campaign as ‘Islamization’ which culminated in vandalizing the billboard.

Gävle MP Roger Hedlund, a member of the far-right Sweden Democrats, also criticized the sign online, saying that headscarves “reduce women to a simple sex object who must cover up in order not to arouse male desire”.

The main driver of spreading Islam in Sweden is immigration since the late 1960s.

A 2017 Pew Research report documents the Muslim population at 8.1% of the total population of Sweden of 10 million (approximately 810,000).