When the Swedish Embassy in Iraq was stormed during the summer, Novus reached out to our Iraqi colleagues at IIACSS to gain insight into Sweden’s image in Iraq. This conversation resulted in a survey where we explored the perspectives of each country, religious views, Koran burnings and the impact of one of the most significant influence actions that Sweden has been subjected to.
The surveys in each country are conducted with nationally representative random samples. In Sweden via Novus on-line surveys, in Iraq via IIACSS face-to-face interviews. More than 1,000 interviews have been conducted in each country. More information further down.
The results of the report focus on a Swedish context and are a shortened part of the material available. Novus and IIACSS are both members of Gallup International.
The survey shows that Sweden has been perceived as a significant threat to Muslim values and the way of life in Iraq. The influence action against Sweden, where Sweden supposedly takes children from Muslim families, is believed to be true by 60 percent of Iraqis. The Koran burnings that have occurred in Sweden are viewed as a direct threat to culture, the maintenance of law and order, and even what it means to be Iraqi in Iraq. Thus, what is happening in Sweden now is perceived as a direct threat to the people of Iraq, not just something considered disrespectful in a distant Sweden.
The increased threat level of terrorist attacks in Sweden suddenly becomes understandable. Of course, not all Iraqis will go to Sweden to commit terrorist crimes, but when a clear majority of Iraqis believe that this threatens their everyday lives, the risk increases sharply. The burning of the Koran really does threaten national security. Now that we have conducted research in Iraq, we can also carry out similar surveys in other countries of interest to understand their perspectives on this matter. Unfortunately, I am quite sure that this is not isolated to Iraq alone. Even if that were the case it is bad enough.
This knowledge is also important for understanding Sweden’s image in the world, especially the Muslim one.
See the following pages for some of the results of the survey.
60 percent of Iraqis believe that the Swedish state takes children from Muslim parents to fight Islam, while two percent of Swedes believe so. An almost unlikely impact of the influence action that targeted Sweden for many years. For reference, mostly for our foreign audience, the same question was asked in Sweden. In Sweden it is a non-issue, most Swedes have hardly heard of this. Certainly, no Swede has seen the enormous scale of this myth in Iraq. It likely extends beyond Iraq and has gained traction in the broader Muslim world.
Social media is often used as a measure of the spread of information in countries, but that method is insecure for population estimation of reach. But it is for free and therefore the data is being analyzed around the world.
Social media plays a role in modern media dynamics, with tweets often regarded as competing publications and picked up by traditional news outlets. The traditional news create trust and real spread. The only way to measure this is by statistical research with methods being used by Novus and IIACSS. In Iraq and many other Muslim cultures, infomration sharings is often based on trust, primarly occuring through person to person interactions and following a hierarchiacal structure. So, there is another dimension that is not as prevalent in the Western world.
77 percent of Iraqis believe that the Swedish state is against Islam, while five percent of Swedes believe so.
94 percent of Iraqis say they are religious, while only 17 percent of Swedes say they are. Although more Swedes belong to Christianity, it is more because of traditions and Swedens history with the church, than driven by faith. In Iraq, faith is central, as can be seen in this survey. Although the survey also shows that the cultural connection to Islam is more important in Iraq than the religious beliefs. The statistical analyses we have done point more to cultural connections and the perceived threat to this, than that it is religion. There is no statistically significant link between religious belief and the threat. However, one between culture and threat. Although the ties between culture and religion are much stronger in Iraq than Sweden. In Sweden, the Christian culture is very strong, but religion is more traditions that create community and build society than a belief in God.
The question of whether you are Sunni or Shia can be perceived as sensitive in Iraq when it comes to surveys about religious affiliation. Therefore, the question is also a little extra soft. Half of the respondents do not want to answer whether they are Shia or Sunni, saying only that they are Muslim, but one in three Iraqis say they are Shia, and one in five say they are Sunni. But no one claims to be anything other than a Muslim in Iraq. Offical numbers of numbers of christians in Iraq is 0,8%, so that is in line with the IIACSS reseach.
For reference, this is what the religious distribution looks like in Sweden:
68 percent consider themselves Christians, while 29 percent do not consider themselves to belong to any religion. One percent say they are Muslim. The survey may show a slight undercoverage among Swedish citizens. But only a small one. The proportion belonging to Muslim religious communities in Sweden is just under 300,000 people, which corresponds to about three percent of the population. However, there is no official data available regarding the exact number of Swedish citizens or individuals with permanent residence permits who are Muslims. Novus investigations are normally conducted against Swedish citizens and persons with permanent residence permits. There is no requirement for citizenship or a permanent residence permit to be included in the 300,000 figure. However, this estimate has some uncertainties. Sweden has approximately 900,000 inhabitants who do not hold Swedish citizenship.
Quran burning in Sweden.
76 percent of Iraqis see the burning of the Koran in Sweden as a real threat to what it means to be Iraqi. The Iraqi’s connection to Muslim culture is extremely strong, if the Iraqis need to choose between state and religion, they choose religion. 77 percent of Iraqis believe that the burnings in Sweden are a real threat to the Iraqis’ traditions and values. 79 percent believe it is a real threat to their personal values as Iraqis.
Something happening in Sweden being seen as a real threat to the Iraqi’s life in Iraq should not be underestimated. Herein lies the explanation for the increased terrorist threat and why the Swedish embassy was stormed. What is happening in Sweden has become a symbol of the West’s struggle against Muslim culture.
The fact that every second Swede sees the burning of the Koran as an actual threat to what it means to be Swedish, is a direct effect of this as well. The terrorist threat affects Swedish security. But also the clash between freedom of expression and everyone’s equal value. Which is the foundation of Swedish society. The fact that foreign laws from religiously governed states should affect Swedish fundamental rights and freedoms immediately becomes problematic. Although the support in Sweden for banning Koran burnings is great. The Swede does not want to provoke other countries, and Novus’ surveys have shown time and time again that Fthe Swedish people really do not think that anyone should abuse our laws to actively provoke and risk Swedish security. The Swede wants neither a religious nor a cultural war. Support for provoking Islam is so low that four out of ten Swedes do not mind the Koran burner being expelled, even if it means that he is sentenced to death. The Swedish people are not normally in favour of the death penalty. But the way the Koran burning have put Sweden in this context is highly disliked by most swedes.
71 percent of the Swedish people consider the Koran burner to be a personal threat. Compare that to 40 percent who believe it is a threat to burn the Torah or the Bible.
76 percent of Iraqis believe it is a threat to the maintenance of law and order in Iraq. Which once again confirms the image of Sweden actively threatening the way of life in Iraq. In this context, a cultural clash emerges between Muslim traditions and Western values, with a particular focus on American actions. But where Sweden seems to be increasingly becoming the focus in this fight between the Western based on Christian values and Islam.
72 percent of Swedes believe that the burning of the Koran in Sweden is a threat to the maintenance of law and order in Sweden. Which the riots in Sweden are a direct acknowledgement of.
History is once again reminded and the burning of the Koran falls into the context that has been relevant for a very long time. Even before the US entered Iraq, although it constantly creates tensions in the country. IIACSS polls show that the new “Saddam” would now be welcomed by a majority of the Iraqi people. Although it accepts and supports that the US is still there to maintain security.
This survey really shows that the tensions and the risk of terrorist threats in Sweden are real. The breeding ground for it is enormous.
About the survey:
Swedish population aged 18-85 during the period 2023 09 01-2023 09 08
On-line interviews In Novus randomly recruited panel
Margin of error +\- 2.3% (at the 20% level)
1300 interviews in a random, nationally representative sample through face-to-face interviews
during the period 2023/08/05 – 2023/09/01
Margin of error +\- 2.7%
For more information, contact Novus by email:
About Novus Group International AB (Novus)
Sweden’s best known opinion polling and marketing research company. Novus annually do about 800 research projects in more than 50 countries, but mainly operate within the Nordics and with companies with their headquarters in the Nordic countries. The sole representative of GALLUP International in Sweden.
Novus is publicly listed on spotlight stock market.
Firmly established research company in Iraq, with deep understanding of Iraqi’s attitudes and behaviors.The first Iraqi company to ever conduct a Media Research and Omnibus studies since 2005. And the sole representative of GALLUP International in Iraq
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