37-year-old Nyamko Sabuni is the new minister of integration and gender equality. She was born in Burundi where her parents, from the former Zaire—now the Democratic Republic of Congo—lived in exile. Thanks to Amnesty International, at age 12 she emigrated to Sweden with her mother and siblings. They were reunited with her father, a leading Zairian opposition figure.
"My mum and dad got jobs straight away ... which means for us there was nothing unusual. Our parents worked, we went to school and life went on."
Sweden has a long tradition of welcoming outsiders and is now beginning to impose restrictions. Some of Sabuni's proposals are quite controversial, such as banning wearing of the veil for girls under 15 years old and mandatory gynecological check-ups to detect genital mutilation. Critics have labeled her "Islamophobe" but Sabuni disagrees. "I don't think that learning the language, learning the codes in society, learning how society works, stands in contrast to one's own identity," she insists. "I have all these identities. When I'm with my Congolese friends I'm Congolese, when I'm with Swedes I'm pretty much like a Swede."
Integration Minister Debates Islamic Veils (Radio Sweden)
Anti-Immigrant Backlash on Swedish Border (Bloomberg)