Two-pronged threat from extremism

2019-07-03

There is a long-term extremist threat to our democratic system which emanates not only from the white power and autonomous movements but also from violent Islamism. The Service must deal with this threat as well as with the threat that a terrorist attack could still occur. Long-term strategic efforts are vital in order to reduce these threats.

Extremism has grown significantly in recent years. The Security Service has noted that extensive and persistent radicalisation is taking place in various settings in Sweden such as foundations, associations, schools and companies, etc., which receive either public funding or funding from foreign interests.

The Service is continually working to reduce the threat posed by extremism, and as part of these efforts the Service has intensified its cooperation with other authorities.

“In order to curb the growth of extremism and protect our democratic system, long-term wide-reaching strategic efforts are necessary. Stakeholders across society need to cooperate in order to constrain the actions of individuals in extremist contexts and the platforms from which they operate. This is done through operational measures, instituting preventive programs, implementing new legislation, etc.”, says Klas Friberg, Head of the Swedish Security Service.

Operational measures involve, for instance, stopping money from going either directly or indirectly towards the financing of terrorism or activities that serve to promote radicalisation and recruitment processes. Preventive efforts involve, for example, preventing and remedying disenfranchisement which could lead to radicalisation.

“We must also act on a broad front, for instance by making it illegal to possess terrorist propaganda such as execution videos and depictions of extreme violence, banning unregistered SIM cards, and bringing individuals in extremist contexts to justice for any crimes they may have committed, not just terrorist crimes. Terrorism must be countered regardless of which criminal offence has been committed”, explains Klas Friberg.

Long-term threat from all three forms of extremism

“The long-term threat to our democratic system emanates from the white power movement, the autonomous movement and violence-promoting Islamism. To achieve their goals, extremist actors have a large variety of methods at their disposal. It is not always a matter of carrying out serious or spectacular crime but could just as easily be a matter of a series of relatively minor crimes”, according to the Service’s Senior Analyst Ahn-Za Hagström.

Protecting our democratic system and countering violent extremism is part of the remit of the Security Service.

As Ahn-Za Hagström explains, “For us, this means enabling people to be politically involved, do their work and express their views without being subject to violence, threats and harassment, because this, along with the influence that extremists would gain over our daily lives, would ultimately silence our society and threaten our democratic system.”

The Service must also deal with the threat that a terrorist attack could still occur. The greatest threat emanates from violent Islamism even though the white power and autonomous movements also have the capability to carry out this type of attack.

Seminar in Almedalen

On 2 July, as part of the Almedalen Week, the Service gave a seminar in Swedish, entitled Extremism – A long-term threat to our democratic system.