I get this question quite often, “Is it difficult to live as a moslem in Stockholm?” Mostly by friends in Indonesia, but sometimes also from fellow students in KTH. As we already know, people are not super religious in Sweden. But we also know that Sweden had accepted many refugee from moslem countries since long time ago.
Before I come to Sweden, I know I can’t expect much about having mosque or eating a halal (moslem way of killing livestock) food. Having living in a country with biggest moslem population (Yep, that is Indonesia), where mosque is everywhere and all foods are halal, normally I would worried about having place to pray or food to eat, or how people will treat me.
Well the answer is, “No, it is not difficult.”
I believe the core value of any religion is to make life more beautiful. It is not exist to make life difficult. As in Islam, we can pray sitting on a park’s bench if it is difficult to find clean indoor space to kneel. We can eat fish or vegetables if all the chicken and beef are not halal.
But when I start living in Stockholm, turns out things are better than I had imagined.
When I google the word “Mosque” in Google Map, two or three red dots pop up, telling me there are at least 3 known mosque. Three of them is in the city center area. I visited each of them. Masjid (Mosque) Aysha in St.Eriksplan have capacity of 300 people (my assumption). Not so big, but the imam taught in English. The mosque in Medborgarplatsen is the biggest mosque in Scandinavia, it currently can host more than a thousand people. The imam don’t speak English though.
But those three are in the city, I live far from the city, How about it? Worry not, because most suburban area have moslem community, therefore, have a mosque. It will not be big and probably looks like normal apartment, but still a great place to meet and pray together with other moslem.
This one is also appear to be easy to solve. Well-known supermarket like ICA, Hemköp or Willy’s sells chicken and sausage with halal label. Not as many as the one without the label, but for me it is good enough. Also, most suburban area have their own moslem groceries, like Kistagrossen in Kista, or in my area, we have Bredäng Liv.
Every reception or event with food serving, they will ask you if you have any dietary preference. You can just write halal food or vegetarian. The term halal start to be recognize by the Swede.
I can say the Swede are very tolerance about religion. The government approve the building of mosque. Supervisor in a company let you have your break for pray. I have not try to excuse myself from a class for praying, because the class is mostly only 2 hours and there will be 15 minutes break in each class. Enough time to pray.
I was working for a Swedish IT company called Emric two years ago before I study in KTH. Out of about 100 people, there are only 3 moslems. My manager did not aware that we use the changing room to pray. Once she knows about it, she immediately call us. In my thought, the worst case scenario is that she will tell us to stop using that room to pray. But no, She even offer us if she can prepare other bigger and better room for us to pray.
Like every other thing, not everything is smoothly perfect. I have only tell you about praying and eating, drinking is not a big deal since we can always see if a drink contains alcohol or not. There are one more thing needs to be cautious about, and for some people this will be a shock, even for a non-moslem.
You guessed it right. It’s the fasting time in Ramadhan.
You know that moslem have one month in a year called Ramadhan and that the moslem fast for the 30 days of that month. The fasting is not eating and drinking (also not getting angry and be a good person) from sunrise to sunset. The moslem calendar Hijriyah is different than regular calendar, therefore Ramadhan comes in different month every year. For example, last year Ramadhan was from June 10 to July 10. You know what season is that time of month, right? It was summer. Where in Sweden, the sun can stay for 21 hours. We can’t eat nor drink, for 21 hours.
In my hometown the 4am to 6pm fasting is already tough. In Sweden, wait, in Stockholm it is from 1.30am to 10.30pm. I said Stockholm because not most north area in Sweden, Kiruna, will have this term “midnight sun” simply because the sun didn’t goes down at all.
Even so, after I tried the 21 hours fasting, again it turns out better than I expect. I mean of course I get hungry and thirsty, but the summer in Sweden is so beautiful I can forget about the fasting. The people are much happier (the Swede loves sun) and colorful, blue sky, those green parks and grass and people playing on it. The third and fourth week of Ramadhan, I even challenge myself to do hiking while fasting. It went okay. I complete the 30 days fasting and it felt great. An achievement, if I may say.
Not everyone can do fasting that long. I search and ask people about this issue. Like I have said before, the religion will not make it difficult for you. As the result, some imam said that we can do fasting based on our ability. If we can’t do full 21 hours, we can break it using other place fasting time. For example, Arab’s fasting time, where sunrise is 2 hours after Sweden and sunset is 2 hours before Sweden, which makes it 17 hours in total.
Oh, and to make it balance, the fasting time in Sweden if Ramadhan fall on winter, will be much shorter too. Sunrise is like 830am and sunset is only 3pm. Makes it 6.5 hours only! Sounds like a gap between lunchtime to dinner, right?
Come here and try it yourself
To conclude myself, being a moslem in Sweden give you a new experience. Some people will have different experience. So far I don’t have problem doing my praying routine. I bet you will feel the same.