The leader of Sweden’s Islamist Nuance Party (Partiet Nyans, or PNy) claimed Muslims in the Nordic region’s most populous country are under pressure by intelligence services and that the authorities want to strip Muslims of their rights and freedoms, effectively parroting similar talking points made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about Muslims in Europe.
Mikail Yüksel, a Swedish politician of Turkish origin who was accused of acting on behalf of the Erdoğan regime, said schools established by Muslims were shut down after they were profiled by Swedish intelligence services. He also said Sweden is not a country that values rights, liberties or freedoms.
“Today, in Sweden, unfortunately, the government wants to take away the freedoms and rights of Muslims. For example, the headscarf ban, the circumcision issue. Muslim-owned schools are closed due to the operations of intelligence agencies,” Yüksel said on a TV program moderated by Mücahit Küçükyılmaz, a chief advisor of the Turkish president.
“Sweden may seem like a country that is pro-freedom from the outside, but I think it would be good to be aware of the oppression of immigrants, especially Muslims,” Yüksel added.
Asked by Erdoğan’s advisor where Turks in Sweden stand on Turkey blocking approval of NATO membership for the Nordic country, Yüksel claimed some 90 to 95 percent of Turks side with the Erdoğan government in the row.
Yüksel also lamented that Sweden wants to cut off funds provided to mosques by foreign countries, especially Turkey, which supports a number of mosques operated by Turkey’s religious authority, the Diyanet, in several Swedish cities. Diyanet-run mosques and Turkey-funded imams were exposed in the past for engaging in spying activities on Swedish territory on behalf of the Turkish government. Reports that profiled critics of the Erdoğan regime were sent back to Turkey by Diyanet imams.
Yüksel accused Sweden’s justice minister of spearheading a campaign to ban such funding at the European Union level as well and said Sweden wants to enact a law to make such foreign financing illegal.
The program was aired on September 8, 2022 on TRT Türk, a station owned by the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) that targets overseas audiences with a special focus on the Turkish and Muslim diaspora communities.
Küçükyılmaz, also an Islamist, is known for running clandestine influence operations on behalf of his boss, Erdoğan, by using social media troll armies, helping disseminate fake news and attack opponents of the government with slander, distortions and lies. For a while he was the director of the presidency’s communications office and worked with the Turkish intelligence-linked SETA foundation in Ankara.
Yüksel’s remarks on Küçükyılmaz’s program echo similar comments made by Turkish President Erdoğan, who often accuses European governments of usurping the rights and freedoms of Turks and Muslims, raiding their mosques and attacking covered Muslim women in the street while authorities look the other way.
On October 6, 2020 Erdoğan publicly accused Sweden, among other European countries, of encouraging attacks on mosques, Muslims and Turks, and said perpetrators are protected by the authorities. He noted that the rights of Muslims have been usurped and that attacks against Muslims have become a daily occurrence. Citing a Quran-burning incident in Sweden as an example, Erdoğan said perpetrators are protected in the name of freedoms while Muslims’ sacred values are under attack.
“I’m saying this very plainly: Racism and Islamophobia are protected by state authorities in many Western nations. …The murderers who attacked our mosques and Muslims’ businesses are not even prosecuted,” Erdoğan stated.
On October 26, 2020 Erdoğan said his government drew up security plans to protect Turks and Muslims in Europe against what he called dark and insidious plans and a total attack on Islam. He said Turkey has 6 million citizens living in European countries and would consider attacks on Turks and/or Muslims as a national security matter.
“I want to express a fact very clearly here. As the president of a country that has 6 million of its citizens living in Europe, I find it useful to make the following warning to our interlocutors. The end of this road you have embarked upon to mask your failures is disaster. Turkey is determined to protect the rights and security of its citizens. We consider hostility to Islam and racist terrorism a national security issue, and we will make our plans accordingly,” Erdoğan said.
Yüksel established Nyans with the support of Turks and Muslim in Sweden after he was expelled from the liberal Center Party (Centerpartiet) in 2018 due to his alleged ties to violent nationalist group the Grey Wolves, the youth branch of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Yüksel’s father Orhan has long served as a politician with the MHP, which is allied with Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He served as mayor of Kulu from 1999 to 2004. Orhan ran for mayor again in 2009 but lost by a few votes. He again unsuccessfully ran in the 2014 elections on the MHP ticket. He was head of the MHP’s far-right youth movement the Grey Wolves in the past.
In the 2019 local elections, he issued a statement asking for support for a joint candidate fielded by the AKP and MHP. In the same statement he also defended his son, who was facing troubles in Swedish politics.
After his dismissal from the Center Party, Mikail talked to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency and claimed he was asked to speak against Turkey and President Erdoğan and that when he refused, he faced troubles within his own party that led to his dismissal.
No direct evidence has emerged so far linking Nyans to the Erdoğan government in Turkey, but if that link is uncovered in the future, It would certainly not be surprising. In June 2017, speaking in an interview with Albanian TV, President Erdoğan himself openly admitted that there is nothing wrong with supporting political parties that share an ideology similar to that of his Islamist AKP in the Balkans and other European countries. “Nobody should be bothered by this,” he added.
In February 2022 Erdoğan hosted a large delegation from the Union of International Democrats (UID), his ruling party’s long arm in Europe, at the presidential palace in Ankara and asked participants living in Europe to organize and to create mechanisms that would affect politics in the countries in which they live.
“[Turkey] has been a European country since the first century of the Ottoman Empire. Until the beginning of the last century, the land on which many European countries are located today was part of our homeland. Today, beyond our historical and social ties, we form an inseparable part of the European continent with our Thrace region,” Erdoğan told the audience, which chanted slogans during his speech. The UID has been very active in many Western European countries, including Sweden.
During the 2022 election campaign, Yüksel was given a platform by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency to raise his talking points, which helped to promote him, especially in Turkish circles in Sweden as well as in diaspora communities in Turkey, where Turks with Swedish citizenship cast their votes.
In Sweden’s parliamentary elections, the Nyans party got 28,352 votes, corresponding to 0.44 percent of the electorate, making it the largest party in Sweden that is not represented in Parliament.
It was not a big impact, but according to Yüksel this robbed the ruling center-left bloc, led by the Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterna), of a thin lead in parliament and brought a center-right coalition to power.
“We went down in history as the party that overthrew the Social Democrat government,” said Yüksel, commenting on the election results. “The Muslim voters punished the the Social Democrats,” he added.
Yüksel’s assertion may be an exaggeration considering that large parties lost some votes to smaller parties on either side of the political spectrum, bringing them to roughly an equal footing in their losses. Yüksel’s claim is based merely on nominal figures and a one-sided picture of voter bleed from only the center-left bloc, which is quite misleading.
It is true that Nyans is believed to have received the votes primarily from supporters of Social Democrats and the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet). The Social Democrat-led bloc lost the election by only some 26,000 votes, and Nyans garnered over 28,000 votes. But similar changes were recorded in the center and far-right base, where smaller parties chipped away votes from big parties in the bloc.
But in regional and municipal elections, Nyans has displayed some success. In the Stockholm region, it received 0.70 percent of votes cast. In the Skåne region, it received 1 percent of all votes. Its performance was more noteworthy in municipal elections. In the Botkyrka municipality in the south of the Stockholm region, the party managed to get 2.03 percent or 916 votes, above the 2 percent threshold, and secured two seats out of 75 on the city council.
Yüksel moved his residential address to Botkyrka a day before the election to assume the seat in the municipality, which was questioned by other politicians in the city and criticized for manipulating the system. Although the party managed to win two seats, the municipality will continue to be run by the centrist bloc, which declared that it wouldn’t work with Nyans.
It appears for now that Nyans will continue to operate from its new base in Botkyrka, near Stockholm, where many Turks and Muslims live.
In the Stockholm municipal election, Nyans scored 0.93 percent, or 5,694 votes, failing to obtain a seat on the city council. But figures from the municipality show the party performed well in some electoral districts in the city. In Stockholm’s Rinkby neighborhood, the party received close to 30 percent of the vote and ranks there as the largest party. In its strongest stronghold of Malmö, the party received 2.10 percent in the municipal election but missed the threshold for a seat on the city council, which is 3 percent.
In the election campaign, Nyans was criticized by other parties for increasing the polarization among voters by stoking people’s fears. exploiting feelings of alienation and casting suspicion on Swedish authorities to win votes. Some of its candidates in Skåne spread hate propaganda against Jews and peddled conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001.
Yüksel denies that Nyans is an Islamist party and says it believes in a multicultural society. According to Yüksel, Islamophobia, integration and housing problems are the core issues they attach the most importance to. Yüksel also advocates for official minority status for Muslims, the same as Jews. The Nyans party has recently appeared at support meetings for families whose children have been put in the care of Swedish Social Services (Socialtjänsten). According to Nyans, Muslims are discriminated against when children are taken from their parents on the grounds that they are mistreated. In addition, children who are placed with foster families lose their Muslim identities.
Almost all the candidates on the Nyans list were Muslims. There are very few Swedes on the list, which includes Muslims of Turkish, Somali and Balkan origin. According to a report in the Swedish media, there was a significant number of criminals and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated persons among the Nyans candidates.
For instance, Bashir Aman Ali, the founder of the Al-Azhar Foundation who ran for a parliamentary seat in the city of Stockholm, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison in 2019 for allowing 10 million kronor (around $900,000) to be taken out of the foundation illegally to start an Islamic bank. Ali claimed during the election campaign that Muslims in Sweden can be “imprisoned without a trial or evidence.”
According to a news story published on the website of the state-funded Sveriges Radio (Swedish Public Radio) on September 1, 2022 , Yüksel was convicted in a Turkish court of a minor assault of a relative in 2009 and ordered to pay damages.
After the election, an internal feud within Nyans erupted over Yüksel’s leadership, and some party members, feeling alienated, called for his resignation.