A library photo of the Islamic Center in Stockholm.

By Yahia Abu Zakariya, IOL Correspondent

STOCKHOLM, June 1, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) – The Muslim minority in Sweden is generally in favor of the embattled European Union Constitution as they see that its pluses outweigh its minuses.

“This constitution is in the interest of the Muslim minority in Sweden, which is estimated at 500,000, as it safeguards the rights of minorities and freedom of religion,” Sheikh Hassan Moussa, chairman of the Swedish Council for Imams, told IslamOnline.net Wednesday, June 1.

Moussa, who doubles as the imam of Sheikh Zayed mosque in the capital Stockholm, said the treaty eschews all sorts of racist and religious discrimination, given that it dropped any reference to Christianity as the continent’s religion.

Al-Akhdar Kirkib, the chairman of the Swedish anti-Islamophobia society, said the constitution would shield Muslim minorities across Europe against racism.

“It clearly calls for combating racial discrimination across the EU member states,” he told IOL.

According to the Swedish civil affairs department estimates, dozens of Arabs and Muslims in the country had applied to change their names during the second half of 2003, in an effort to escape an evident job discrimination.

The constitution, designed to make decision-making easier after the bloc’s enlargement from 15 to 25 member states last year, needs the approval of all members to go into force.

So far, nine EU countries have approved the treaty — Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

Dutch voted on the text on Wednesday with polls pointing to a decisive “no” that would compound a crisis in the bloc triggered by France’s resounding “no” .

Liberal Code

The Muslim leaders, however, recognize that the European constitution has its minuses.

Moussa said the code indulges itself in liberalism and capitalism.

Helena Bin Ouda, the chairwoman of the Swedish Islamic Council, the main Muslim representative body in Sweden, also fears that Europe’s corporate titans would determine the fate of the entire continent.

“I, to be honest, also fear that Europe would toe the NATO line, which would have future repercussions,” she told IOL.

The activist further expressed concerns that the US and the EU might forge an alliance at the expense of Muslims under the new constitution.

Sweden is to hold a parliamentary vote on the EU constitution in December, and Prime Minister Göran Persson said on Monday, May 30, that he stood by this plan even after France’s rejection of the treaty.

According to recent polls, a majority of Swedish voters (58%) want the chance to vote on the draft in a referendum.

The call is backed by some parties, including the Leftists and the Greens.

The Voice of People group, an umbrella organization of various political parties, has collected 120,000 signatures demanding the government to hold a referendum.