A report released on Wednesday 15th December by the Swedish Security Services or Säkerhetspolisen revealed that the terrorist threat to Swedish society is extremely limited and involves less than 200 radicalised individuals. The SSS expects that there is no serious threat to society and government in the Nordic state and that measures to counteract violent groups should focus on preventive measures.
The report also notes that the process of radicalising individuals is similar, regardless of ideology and that the steps towards violence should be counteracted, rather than the ideology itself. The SSS has been very careful to use the term “violence-promoting Islamist extremist ideology” to characterise the focus of the report. Devout Muslims, and even extremist ideologies are not the focus of security efforts – but those that promote violence are.
Returnees from training in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan / Pakistan and North Africa are often seen as role models, according to the report.
Increased knowledge and larger international contact networks give returnees a special status, resulting in some of them having set up their own networks after returning to Sweden.
The most interesting aspect of the report – especially for academics in the field – is the intelligence revealed about terrorist profiles by the Swedish security services:
The group of active members on whose actions the descriptions in this report are based consists of just under 200 individuals. According to Security Service information, these individuals participated in or supported violence promoting Islamist extremism in 2009 or later, when they were registered as domiciled in Sweden. Most of these individuals are male, although ages and backgrounds vary. Several women affiliated with violence-promoting Islamist circles are also assessed to share the violence-promoting ideology, but in most cases do not engage in activities directly linked with security-threatening activities.
The network is connected mainly through social relations, but is not necessarily coherent or very capable. Most of those involved are registered as living in urban areas and much of the ability of the networks focusses around the internet and social meetings.
Unsurprisingly, those who are susceptible to involvement in “violence-promoting Islamist extremist ideology” are from difficult backgrounds marked by alienation. Most are males aged 15 – 30 and intense social contact creates a group dynamic.
The security services have noted that there is no increase in the number of radicalised individuals, but that those who travel abroad to engage with other radicalised groups pose a significant threat to the interests of Sweden and other countries.
It is the view of the Security Services and stakeholders involved in the productions of the report, that improving citizens lives in general contributes to a society less likely to contain radicalised individuals and reduces stigma by helping everyone and not just one group.
It is also noted that for radicalised Islamists, a deeper understanding of Islam often leads them to become more moderate and peaceful Muslims. The report is careful to emphasise that this does not place a greater burden on Muslim organisations in preventing terrorism, and that the responsibility to creating an inclusive and democratic society rests on the shoulders of all Swedish citizens.