An unofficial gay Pride parade organised by a right-wing nationalist is planned for July 29 to run through a predominantly immigrant neighbourhood with a large Muslim population.
The event is making the headlines in the country and globally for all the wrong reasons.
Pride Järva is organised by Jan Sjunnesson, a former editor-in-chief of Samtiden, a web-magazine owned by Sweden Democrats (SD), the anti-immigration party that became the third largest political party in the Swedish parliament following the 2014 general election.
Sjunnesson is also the editor of website Avpixlat, often described in mainstream Swedish media as a xenophobic and far-right website.
The planned parade has attracted criticism from the official Pride organisers, Sweden’s LGBT federation, and anti-racism groups.
They believe the agenda behind this parade organised by the far-right is to try to provoke Muslims in the predominantly immigrant areas.
In a joint statement released to Al Jazeera, the official Stockholm Pride and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) said they were distancing themselves from the initiative.
“Jan Sjunnesson has for a long time made himself known as a person who’s spreading hatred towards Muslims on social media [and] who’s not supporting LGBT rights.
“The magazine Expo in February published a compilation in which they, among other things, showed how Sjunnesson … had shared an American film where Muslims were described as paedophiles and homosexuals and a ‘Satanistic threat against society’ who should be deported,” the statement said.
Sjunnesson, a 57-year-old father of one, told Al Jazeera he rejected the claims that he is “homophobic” and “racist”.
“I am not homophobic, the media made these remarks about me. I used to be bisexual, now I am married to an Indian woman, so I am not racist either,” he said.
“However, I am against the Islamisation of Sweden.”
Sjunnesson says the leftist media has been very critical of the parade which they say is “provocative”.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with that! I think it’s good to be provocative and have an element of surprise,” he said.
Element of ‘surprise’
Sjunnesson said the plan is to have a fun and peaceful parade. About 100 people are expected to attend the parade.
He believes it is time to bring the Pride Järva to areas other than central Stockholm, and that is why he chose to have it in these areas.
“I chose the area because I think we should be able to parade anywhere and we should not allow the Islamisation of Sweden to grow and stop us from what we want to do,” he said.
Annika Hamrud, a journalist, believes Sjunnesson is staging the parade for attention and publicity, and the media is buying into it.
“The organiser has a history of making homophobic statements in the past, and he was expelled from SD for being too extreme. He is using this as a platform to make it more antagonistic between the LGBT and the Muslim community,” she said.
Hamrud said: “There are so many areas in the capital that have never had the Pride parade, why not go there, why isolate the event by holding it in an area that is too far from the main parade?”
She concluded that the parade is called Pride because people are supposed to parade with pride in the heart of Stockholm, not in isolated areas.
A counter parade is planned on the same day, according to a post on the Facebook page of the Anti-racist Pride Park March.
Emelie Martensson, organiser of the counter parade, says 800 people have registered to attend.
They intend to meet the parade at the finishing point in Husby. “When the racists and Islamophobes want to use LGBT as a tool we have to unite and say NO,” said Martensson.
The marchers in the counter parade will turn their back at the alternative pride parade once they pass their area and after that the entire group will head to the park where everyone in the community from all walks of life can be together.
Al Jazeera spoke to Mohammed Noor, a resident of Tensta for over 20 years and a member of the local ruling Social Democrats party.
“I have the right to my ideology,” Noor said. “I shouldn’t be forced to agree with any other ideology or way of life. However, it does not give me the right to insult anyone else’s ideology and way of life.
“We live in a country that has freedom of speech. Everyone should be allowed to express themselves. However, with that freedom comes the responsibility not to insult any other group.”
‘No one is bothered’
Noor worries the Pride Järva parade could lead to possible clashes; however, he is not worried about the adults in the area.
In an area that has recently been plagued by violence and social exclusions that led to riots last summer, there are many restless teens that may play into the hands of the organisers.
“To be honest the only people debating this parade are politicians and the media. In the streets no one is really bothered and no one is talking about this, just in the last two weeks there have been two murders in the area and that is what people here are concerned about,” said Noor.
He said the organiser is using Pride to promote his hidden agenda.
“Why can’t he just be transparent? Sjunnesson should not hijack pride parade and pretend to care about the rights of LGBT community.
“Pride has been taking place in Sweden since 1991, and we have never had any clashes. In the end, as a Muslim, I don’t think it’s our place to judge anyone that walks on this earth, leave the judging to God and stop the normalising of Islamophobia,” Noor said.
Joanna Ljunggren, the official Pride spokesperson, echoed Noor’s sentiment.
“We are bigger and stronger together. Pride represents to me the politics of inclusiveness and ability to be who you are and be able to come out, love, and of course take part in the big party,” Ljunggren said.