On Saturday night, Stockholm had a narrow brush with catastrophe when a man tentatively identified as an Iraqi-born Swede (who had studied in Britain) detonated an explosives-laden car on a busy downtown street at the height of the Christmas shopping season. As in New York City’s Times Square seven months ago, hundreds of innocent bystanders might have been killed. Fortunately, the would-be terrorist was the only fatality.
The bomber appears to have acted alone, incensed by the publication of Swedish cartoons he considered blasphemous and the sufferings of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, where 500 Swedish soldiers serve under NATO command.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has responded in keeping with Sweden’s finest traditions. Denouncing the attacks as “unacceptable,” he urged Swedes to “stand up for tolerance,” not jump to premature conclusions and “let the justice system do its job.”
Mr. Reinfeldt’s firm and timely championing of traditional Swedish tolerance showed political courage. In elections three months ago, his center-right coalition fell short of an absolute majority as a result of alarming gains by the misleadingly named Sweden Democrats, an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim party of the extreme right.
Center-right politicians elsewhere in Europe — France and the Netherlands, for example — have been quick to pander to similar xenophobic parties and their supporters. Mr. Reinfeldt declared defiantly on Monday that Sweden’s open society is worth defending. We couldn’t agree more."