First Monday

Arab diaspora online media in Sweden: Arab migrants' identity discourses on the AlKompis Facebook page by Mahitab Ezz El Din

With the increase in migration to the Western countries, social media became the alternative space for Arab diaspora to meet and bring in the issues of their concern. It is also a platform where one can examine the identities of migrants. In this article I analyze the comments in one of the most popular Arab diaspora platforms in Sweden where I identify migrant identity and aspects of integration as well. Combining a quantitative and a qualitative approach the study results show an internal conflict as well as two types of identities, internal and external. The identities are found in themes discussing racialization, counter racialization, citizenship and foreignness, Belongingness/Swedishness and political involvement.


Theoretical point of departure




Literature on diaspora shows that the social media plays a crucial role in the construction of migrant identities. Today, diaspora communities — notably migrants, refugees, sojourners, exiles, expatriates among others — living in Sweden have become important producers and consumers of social media fare and therefore make use of media in different ways.

Arab media diaspora in Sweden struggle with questions of integration and assimilation in their new host societies. Several scholars argue that immigrants, particularly Arabs living in the West, tend to stay connected with their mother countries in a way that has a negative impact on their ability to assimilate to their host societies.

Mohamed (2007) argues that current immigration conditions and the continuous move between the East and the West create a need for a connection between diaspora and their home countries. In this regards, social media became the new ground where Arab diaspora meet to discuss issues of identity, politics, and integration. In that sense social media has created an alternative ‘space’ where Arabs discuss issues of common concern (El Gody, 2014; Andén-Papadopoulos and Pantti, 2013).

In this article I look at diaspora media online which Myria Georgiou [1] describes as “spaces where minorities increasingly communicate interests, make claims, and mobilize identities.” In that sense by analyzing comments in one of the most popular Arab diaspora platforms in Sweden we can identify the migrant identity and aspects of integration as well.




Alkompis is a Stockholm-based private Nordic media company, established in 2012. It offers news in Arabic in Sweden, but it also has followers across Europe and the Arab world. It is considered to be the most popular page for many Arabs with more than 2.1 million followers (Alkompis, 2020).

Most of the news on Alkompis focuses on Sweden, community news, and news on migration and Arab migrants in Sweden. Occasionally there’s news that might be of Arab interest from home countries or related to Arab culture.

According to their Web site, Alkompis is ethnically, religiously, and politically independent. In line with their policies, followers’ comments are not reviewed prior to publication; however, anyone who writes comments must comply with Swedish law.

Studying this type of diaspora media allows some understanding of the interests of immigrants in Sweden. Through comments by followers, we can look into migrant identity and aspects of integration as well.

Due to the high rate of interaction of Alkompis’ followers, I examined comments on posts published during September 2018. I chose that particular time period since the material covers both Swedish elections period as well as typical daily news, allowing a diversity of material. I map this material quantitatively in order to provide an overview on the number of posts, type of posts, and interactions. I selected a smaller sample from comments to study using qualitative thematic analysis.

Comments by followers and interactivity are considered relevant for this study. It allows me to study the types of posts that attract attention and interactivity on AlKompis’ Facebook page. The comments also illustrate the ways in which followers relate to published posts. In addition, different themes reveal to some degree the integration of followers in Swedish society. Many of these followers have recently moved to Sweden; there is a need to follow an Arabic language media to remain current with important Swedish news. Some comments reflect problems related to identity and integration.

Research questions

Which topics do posts on AlKompis focus on?

Which topics create the most interactivity among followers?

Which themes are brought up in comments?

How are identities constructed in comments?



Theoretical point of departure

Identity is a conceptual cornerstone in the study of social and cultural change (Woodward, 1997; Bauman, 2001). It defines our position in the world, providing us with an understanding of how we define ourselves in relation to others. The concept of identity has caused a “veritable discursive explosion” [2]. Considering Foucault, Hall notes that identity is crucial in terms of the relationships between subjects and wider discursive practices entailed by questions of identity. Hence, identity is not a final product but is the outcome of a constant, ongoing process affected by different factors, including history, culture, and the media (Hall, 1996).

These factors help different groups, or communities, identify and create shared values within their groups, establishing boundaries that define who they are, and define how they connect to each other and to the world (Hall, 1996; Woodward, 1997). Identities are then anchored by a set of patterns that follow certain values and behaviours derived from a range of sources, which could have national, ethnic, social class, gender, and sexual foundations (Gilroy, 1997). Maalouf (2000) believes that it is difficult to align oneself with a single identity, as we are composed of a “composite identity” [3] with different elements and hierarchical levels. A person can align oneself with a religion, nationality, language or cultural identity, considering “whichever one of their allegiances is most under attack” [4]. In a global society one can argue that homogenous identities have been replaced by hybrid identities (Maalouf, 2000; Ezz El Din, 2016).

Identity is also often constructed in relation to an ‘Other’. On many occasions, identities are constructed not based on one’s “own sense of belongingness and solidarity arising out of shared life worlds” but rather through a focus on “opposition to an Other” [5]. ‘Othering’ builds on a binary opposition that divides people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, and thus it is pivotal in examining identity (Hall, 1996). One needs to understand ‘Othering’ as a type of social representation tied to stereotypes characterized by various levels of negativity (Jackson, 2012; Tekin, 2010). Spivak (1985) uses this term to represent the process of producing an ‘Other’ in a colonial narrative linked to class, race, and gender. Hence, Othering is not a substitute for ‘racism,’ ‘sexism,’ or ‘class,’ but is considered to be a consequence of them. It symbolizes “degradation” and the process of identity construction connected with “degradation” [6]. ‘Othering’ is conventionally used in reference to repressed and marginalized sides, and when the ‘Other’ is being judged, the emphasis is on what r“differentiates instead of what connectsr” [7]. Hence, ‘Othering’ makes it possible for people to construct similarities and differences and then to confirm their own identities relative to an ‘Other’ (Jackson, 2012).

Identity, therefore, is constructed through difference and centers around ‘Othering’ by showing opposition, particularly exclusion and inclusion, encompassing polarized ideas on what we are and are not (Delanty, 1995; Schöpflin, 2001; Woodward, 1997). This type of construction may also be described as “hierarchical Othering,” where ‘we’ places the ‘Other’ in a ‘down under’ position [8].

In these hierarchical levels, struggles are apparent; the ‘them’ is excluded and is hence constructed, especially in media, as culturally ‘lower,’ ‘the enemy,’ or a ‘threat.’ The ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy is thus relevant when studying cultural identities and in situations of mediated intercultural conflict.

Cultural identities are strongly relevant to our interconnected globalized world. Globalization means that social relations are affected by events in different parts of the world; there are no longer local events that do not affect other countries at some distance (Giddens, 1990). Therefore, as Giddens observes, the so-called ‘identity crisis’ is a dominant characteristic of late modernity.

In this context, the ‘crisis’ can be seen as binary, a tension between “essentialist” and “non-essentialist” forms of cultural identity, which appear to be in conflict. An essentialist identity appears when a focus is on allegedly genuine and fixed characteristics, derived from biology and heredity, shared by a group and constructing a homogenous culture. A non-essentialist identity allows for diversity; in addition to focusing on differences, it also includes a focus on commonalities, e.g., between different ethnic groups (Woodward, 1997). In that sense, one can say that media reporting contributes to the creation of essentialist identities when reproducing stereotypical representations and constructing the ‘Other’ as a homogenous group.

In this paper, I distinguish between two types of ‘Other’: the polarized relation with a ‘external’ ‘Other’ on the one hand, and alternatively, a more ambivalent relation to ‘internal’ ‘Others’ (Camauër, 2010; Ezz El Din, 2016). The idea of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ ‘Others’ appeared in Camauër (2010), where she refers to them as the ‘close’ and the ‘distant’ ‘Other’ [9]. The internal ‘Other’ examined in this article is tied to internal ‘Othering’ between commentators of the same ethnic background, while external ‘Othering’ can be seen in traditional dichotomous ‘us’ and ‘them.’




This study uses a mixed method approach (Bryman, 2016). In the first step, content analysis was used to map data, and then a closer examination of the themes was conducted using a qualitative approach inspired by thematic analysis (Nowell, et al., 2017). It is an approach that allowed the identification of patterns and trends across sampled data. It has been argued that it can be a useful tool in developing theories from empirical data (Anstead and O’Loughlin, 2015), as in this study when theorizing on the identity of Arab immigrants in Sweden. I look into the main themes and lexical choices used in comments as well as implicit and explicit ideas, an approach used in studying social media (Stieglitz and Dang-Xuan, 2013; Anstead and O’Loughlin, 2015; Juutinen, 2016).

Although comments were published on a public Facebook page, I do not refer to comments by specific commentators since I do not have permission to republish their views.


Two samples were collected, with the first including 334 posts published between 1 September and 30 September 2018. As for the qualitative sample, it included 40 posts, selected on those that covered different genres and topics, as well as generating the most reactions. Ads were purposively excluded since there was significant interactivity in posts with ads. Comments with emotions, tags, and irrelevant data were excluded. There were 87 comments collected for this paper.




Mapping data quantitatively

I retrieved data from 334 posts published between 1 September and 30 September 2018 (Figure 1). The total level of interactivity numbered 230,321, classified as: 22,977 comments, 165,159 reactions, and 42,185 shares Table 1).


Daily posts
Figure 1: Daily posts.



Interactions of followers with posts per day
Table 1: Interactions of followers with posts per day.


The 334 posts collected for this study were divided into different genres (see Table 2), covering different topics (see Table 3). News was the most dominant genre presented in different forms (72 percent), based on news links (50 percent), news photos (17 percent), and TV newscasts (5 percent). News was largely represented by coverage of the latest daily Swedish news and sometimes important international events that might be of interest to an Arab audience in Sweden. International news consisted of stories based on original homelands or migration to other European countries as well as stories related to football. On occasion breaking news, crime news, sports, society, and weather news was presented through news photos published together with brief stories. News photos lacked links that could take followers to specific Web sites for further details. Besides photos and text, there was also a live TV newscast that provided news summaries to followers.

The sample also included live coverage of election results and occasionally sports. In addition, there were TV shows (5 percent) covering societal issues and a program for kids. Rarely, opinion articles were mentioned as well as a survey to sample public opinion on the elections create reactions among followers.

The most published news posts on the page were those related to political news (89 stories), crime (42 stories) while news from abroad constitute 13 percent of coverage with 43 stories. A total of 39 news stories covered society and health care while news on migration, employment, sports, and society were almost equally surveyed. Remaining topics with 4 posts or less treated culture, nature, tourism, terrorism, education, environment, military, housing, and technology (see Table 3).

AlKompis sponsored ads and presented them in 15 percent of posts (see Table 2). Ads were dedicated to food and restaurants and health care (private medical/cosmetic clinics) as well as home, furniture, and job vacancies.


Table 2: Genre.



Topics and interactivity
Table 3: Topics and interactivity.


It was not easy to draw conclusions based on interactivity per topic since the number of posts published differ. In some cases a single one post had a high level of interactivity for some reason, but the overall topic in general did not show special interactivity overall. For example, in this sample, the interactivity was high for posts with topics from outside Sweden due to the fact that there was a speech given in Arabic by an Austrian official in the United Nations. On 29 September 2018 Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl spoke at U.N, General Assembly, delivering “the official Austrian statement at the 73rd UNGA in four official UN languages, i.e., Arabic, French, Spanish, and English.” [10] This speech generated 1,869 comments, 20,046 reactions, and 33,169 shares. This single event demonstrated that comparisons of interactivity could not be completely reliable. Nevertheless Table 3 and Figure 2 illustrate that politics and crime were top topics that attracted followers. Even though the number of posts on crime were half the number of posts published on politics, there were more shares of crime stories compared to politics.


Figure 2: Topics.


This study did not focus on news sources. It seemed that there was a dependence on other sources with a great deal of reposting. This variable needs to be examined in future research.

Qualitative analysis


In this section I present analysis of posts using thematic analysis. I identified several recurring themes in comments regardless of topic or genre. The most dominant themes are: racialization, counter racialization, citizenship and foreignness, Belongingness/Swedishness (the insider), and political involvement.


Racialization was the most dominant theme in the sample, with comments focusing on racializing each other. I describe it as internal racialization since both sides were generally of Arab or Middle East origin but commentators blamed others based on religion or citizenship. The comments are characterized to present a self-centered identity which articulates criticism towards the rest of the Arabs. For example the blame is on Muslims, Christians, Syrians, Iraqis, or sometimes Afghani immigrants. There was also a debate about old and new immigrants where blame was placed on new immigrants and asylum seekers. Within this theme, commentators used offensive and degrading language.

In one example, comments on a post related to a crime story — where a Swiss tourist was convicted of attempting to kill an anarchist in Sweden — evolved into blame on Arabs and internal rationalization. The commentators did not seem to have read the story completely but started criticizing Arabs (comments 1–2).

Comment 1:

I swear to God that (harming) every animal is forbidden, but unfortunately the Arabs did not even leave the animals undisturbed ... When the Arabs insult someone they say to him, you dog or donkey ... animals could be better than many people [11]

The collective reference to “Arabs” in general constructed a blame on Arabs for committing this crime. The comment illustrated blindness towards the facts and the reality of the criminal, revealing negative thoughts and stereotypes.

Comment 2:

I’ll answer you, because they are not Arabs. When someone who belongs to a minority perform a good job he says I am not an Arab, and when he is stealing, cheating, selling drugs, burning, cracking, and sedition, he says that he is an Arab, although he is not an Arab, but your hatred to Arabs makes you hate yourselves.

In a counter response attempting to defend Arabs (comment 2), the commentator tried to explain that the term ‘Arab’ was just used in relation to crime, but never when an Arab committed a good deed. both commentators blamed each other without even verifying the contents of the original post.

Racialization can also be seen in another post on a problem with Chinese tourists in Sweden. The comments (3–5) deviated from the main topic of the post, turning to insults.

Comment 3:

It seems that you (name of a commentator) eat cats and dogs and you try to show that you understand in Chinese affairs. I swear to God that you are stupid and you live with your stupidity and ignorance in Sweden. You believe that you are living the best conditions. You act as a servant to the Swedes even if you licked all their dogs and cats ... Haha

The commentator accused another one as ‘(tagging the other commentator’s name),’ being ‘stupid’ and ‘ignorant.’ Beyond name calling, the commentator suggested that a particular individual was ‘enslaved’ to Swedes. This offensive approach suggested racialization and humiliation. Further, there was an accusation that immigrants were simply ‘servants’ in Sweden. Most people who comment on this Facebook page were already living in Sweden and have immigrated to Sweden, but one can see in this infighting internal discrimination and ‘Othering’. Certainly, these comments reflected stress, manifesting as bullying.

Racialization continued in a comment about private schools in Sweden, which continued hate speech towards Muslims. Comments 4 and 5 were just examples of many comments with the same approach. Within the discussion of this post a critique was articulated against Islam and Muslims. Muslims were perceived as problematic (comment 4) while in another comment there is a counter reply that there were some immigrants from the Middle East described as ‘dirty,’ accused of ‘acting’ like Europeans (comment 5). These comments reflected an identity conflict.

Comment 4:

Failure follows them wherever they go. The problem is in Muslims

Comment 5:

The failure comes from those who are liking the shoes from the dirty East, they are acting as if they are Europeans

A post based on a news photo about an elderly person dying alone in his house turned to a discussion about those with foreign backgrounds who desired to be Swedish were just slaves. The initial comment started examined a society that supposedly ‘encouraged’ loneliness.

The ‘us’ and ‘them’ discourse was evident when commentators examined the differences between a Swede (collectively) and immigrants (collectively) where immigrants were attempting to impress natives. The articulation of this discourse certainly appeared problematic in its simplistic, dichotomous construction and negative narrative. It revealed a non-belonging identity, where commentators found themselves not fitting into a Swedish context as well as being critical of those who tried to.

Comment 6:

Well said ... You said the truth and this is the reality in the country. There is no respect and no decency in Sweden ... there are many fake things and masks and more idiots because they mimic the Swedes, most of whom are either mentally ill or live alone or have introversion or think of committing suicide or last but not least drown in excessive drinking over the weekend to forget the troubles The boring and depressing life in Sweden ... As for the coaxing rats who are sheltered in Sweden, they despise even themselves, even if they can lick up the Swedish trash to show Swedes that we are obedient to you and take all your habits and we do not belong to those with whom we share the same skin ... The disaster is that those fools remain stupid and invandrare (immigrant) even if they live thousand years.

Comment 7:

Sometimes one needs to remind the enslaved coax that Sweden has just brought them in order to serve them only and nothing else ... You have children then that’s better because they can also serve Sweden .... I hate the stupid invandrare (immigrant) who imagines himself that he is part of this country once he finishes SFI (Swedish for foreigners).... Haha They are only rats.

These commentators demonstrated an internal ‘Othering’ as well as presenting a non-belonging identity. They used ‘foreigner’ in a way that demonstrated that ‘immigrants’ were in a futile position in Sweden. The non-belonging identity is seen in the reference to themselves and all others with foreign backgrounds as invandrare, never be able to participate in Swedish society. ‘Invandrare’ was used in a degrading fashion. No matter how long one remained in Sweden — even a thousand years — they would never become Swedish.

Another post about a student convicted for assaulting his teacher lacked details on both student and teacher but comments racialized both.

In comments 8–10, for example, blame was placed on those with a foreign background. The discussion was constructed so that Arabs and Arab students in Sweden were irresponsible and impolite.

Comment 8:

I guess, the assistant teacher is a foreigner and similarly the student who threw the mobile is also a foreigner.

Comment 9:

This is certainly an Arab student

Comment 10:

The impoliteness of students here in Sweden cannot be compared to anything, especially the Arabs have a wrong understanding, and that you have the right to pee on the teacher.

One of the commentators explicitly articulated that it was a ‘guess’ that he was an Arab. This insecurity led to an Arab being blamed in spite of any attempt to secure the facts of the case. Further comments blamed Arab students of being undisciplined in the classroom, in spite of any evidence to support this notion.

These irresponsible comments continued in posts 11–15 on Islamic schools in Sweden, critical of those starting Islamic schools as well as the kind of curriculum promoted in these schools. Evidence was not produced to support these statements, just blanket criticism on Islamic schools and their methodologies. A final comment made a comparison to Christian schools, again with factual evidence.

Comment 11:

Most of the people in the Middle East do not have honor. They open a school, which is any type of school aiming only for financial benefit; it does not matter to follow the education laws of the country whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. The problem is not in the religion but in the people themselves.

Comment 12:

IS schools that teach ignorance and forbiddances. Why do you keep Islamic schools

Comment 13:

You fled from your countries and from your schools and came here to do the same thing. Go back to your countries and enroll your children in schools that you want .. What will your children learn from religious lessons? Will they become doctors or engineers or inventors??? Only they will learn murder, slaughter and rape.

Comment 14:

Return where the paradise of Sharia and religion.

Comment 15:

If it was a Christian school you wouldn’t have opened your mouth

In these examples, there was still a dichotomous “us” and “them” where each side was collectively constructed as Muslims or Christians. One commentator referred to individuals from the Middle East in a collective manner as if the commentator was not Middle Eastern. The distancing in this context was not tied to a crime or a shameful deed, but a collective characteristic that the self (the commentator) excluded oneself from. There was also a tendency to construct Islam as a background religion.

A news photo with a post about a crime revealed racialization with incomplete information, not even knowing the origin of the person charged (comments 16–20). The discourse was similar to Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats) conservative rhetoric — with comments like “return from where you came” (comments 16, 18); “the door is widely open” (comment 19); and “book a ticket and return to the country he came from” (comment 20).

Comment 16:

You and Muslim countries, return to your country and live at ease and let the country with infidels live in peace, no need for your philosophy

Comment 17:

Live and build your countries and impose the laws that you like

Comment 18:

Return from where you came and save yourself

Comment 19:

Sweden does not force anyone to live in it. As the proverb says “the door is widely open for a camel to pass through.”

Comment 20:

Hey guys, whoever thinks his life in Sweden is tough and cannot bear the Swedish bad laws, can book a ticket and return to the country he came from.

These comments stressed that Muslims are not welcomed in Sweden. Sweden is a multi-cultural and multi-ethnical society that is supposed to incorporate everyone. However, the comments in this discourse revealed problems in accepting those with different and disagreeable opinions.

Another racializing instant was found in a post on a migration law about providing residency permits for minors, the so called ensamkomande. Although the post made no specific reference to Afghani children, the comments (21–24) included racialization of Afghani immigrants. Mocking the ages of Afghani children and their appearance was one part of the racialization theme. These comments were judgmental since there was no information in the posts that supported the contentious remarks.

Comment 21:

The features of the Afghani child, he has a dense beard and a heavily hairy body. He even shows these signs directly at birth

Comment 22:

One feature of the Afghani “minor” he can tell us what happened in the days of our master Noah, peace be upon him, as an eyewitness where he lived that time 😂😂😂.

Comment 23:

One of the features of the Afghani child is that he holds the first place in Guinness records as the oldest child in the world (ie, the child is between 20 and 120 years old).

Comment 24:

I have one Afghani in the camp who lived in Syria and lived in Iran at the age of 16. Two years ago, he was in Syria, which means he was 14, but he looks above 30. You see him like a colt and he tells you I am 14 years old.

These comments were a form of ‘Othering’, addressing a collective group of immigrants.

Another approach to ‘Othering’ appeared in commentary on housing. The posts (25–33) centered on a Syrian asylum seeker residing in a hotel in Skåna with his family, unable to find an apartment. Many of the comments were unsympathetic.

Comment 25:

We have the citizenship and we can’t find a house and in this life, there is no mercy, whether from people or social services. May God help us.

Comment 26:

This is an old trick to live in a hotel so that one could put pressure on the municipality until you get an apartment with cheap rent and offer more money. Play something else (find another trick)

Comment 27:

On the basis of being oppressed 😡😡, and he was living in his country in a palace, he is living in a hotel, and they gave him two rooms, as if the Swedes were running after us, and they brought us here, You should thank God, look at other asylum seekers in Lebanon, Jordan, and he Gulf or Egypt are they living in the palaces, that’s what they have, those who don’t like it should go back to his palace 😡😡.

Comment 28:

The beginning is difficult for everyone, but we do not deny the services provided to the refugees, education and the right to work and residence, there is no Arab country that offers that, unfortunately many of our Arab brothers do not have loyalty to Sweden, they only want to get access to residency permits and citizenship besides the social aid and work in the black market and more than one house, it is just a personal opinion.

Comment 29:

If he doesn’t like the situation then he should return to his home country or to any Arab or Islamic country, to provide him what Sweden and all Europe have provided.

Comment 30:

There are people who even if they go to paradise they wouldn’t like it. The best thing is to go back to Turkey. They will give you the best tent and shower in open air. A final word, without upsetting (insulting) anyone, if you don’t like it move away. We are happy like that we are like everyone else, thank God, many thanks to Sweden which is better than our Arab countries. The latest proposal is if you want go to the Gulf and let us see who provides the best treatment on condition that they receive you.

Comment 31:

They made him stay in a hotel based on the fact that he had a villa in Syria 🐸🐸

Comment 32:

Be thankful to Allah

Complaints over housing in spite of Swedish citizenship (comment 25) appeared to elicit a number of unfavorable responses, largely painting an individual as ungrateful and foolish. There were also remarks suggesting an abuse of Swedish social benefits (comments 26–28), to the point of being disloyal to Sweden (comment 28). A lack of appreciation generated a pointed comment of “go back to your homeland.” The original post was not necessarily critical of Sweden or its services but racialization here constructed an identity of loyal and disloyal Swedes.

Another post evolved from a comment that noted that 17 percent of Swedes were racist. It turned into commentary on Arab immigrants alledgedly abusing social benefits. The internal ‘Othering’ was evident in comments calling Arabs in Sweden as racists and defending those Swedes identified as racists (comments 33–38). The dichotomy was still evident in comparisons between native Swedes and foreign immigrants. Comment 33 for example explicitly placed the blame on foreigners, describing some immigrants as living in luxury while receiving social benefits while native Swedes struggle. The commentator explicitly agreed that Swedes should be racist. Similarly in other comments, racists were collectively referred to as Arabs, whether living in Sweden or in Arab states (comments 34–38). It appeared that there was a mistrust among commentators that Arabs in Sweden were harmonious. Unfortunately commentators used a guise of statistics about Arab racism as if based on research, where these comments originated in personal impressions (comments 33, 35–38). There was also accusations that Arabs were not only racists but also snobbish and ignorant (comment 36–38).

Comment 33:

If they became racists this is due to foreigners, they eat, drink, and own cars, homes, travel, and they live on social benefits. They live on arguments like I am unable to work, I am sick and this is not suitable for me. Of course, 80% refuse to take advantage. The poor Swede studies and takes a loan and works and leaves his home from 5 PM until the evening. He only gains what can barely cover his costs.

Comment 34:

I haven’t witnessed racism in Sweden as much as I saw in Arab countries

Comment 35:

16,99 of whom are old immigrants

Comment 36:

Sweden 17%
Arabs 200%
And if he speaks Swedish too, he considers himself Shamrukh Andersson [12] 😂😂😂.

Comment 37:

True 50% are racists ... And the Arabs are 100% racists ... If someone says he is not a racist, he is supposed to love all ethnic groups and respect and love all religions and respects Christianity, Islam and Judaism and even atheists; and if you dislike one of those then you are racist ... one shouldn’t allow and forbid like one wants as if this is how you show that you are educated.

Comment 38:

Hehehe Swedes are racists, who is the idiot who said this. God forbid that you see Arab racism. Shift the numbers in the post and multiply by 5 in order to find out the Arab ignorance and racism.

Counter racialization

Although this theme was not very dominant, it was characterized by efforts to explain the immigrant experience, taking a peaceful and conciliatory tone. It provided a “supportive” identity leaning towards self-reflection that had been missing in the racialization theme.

Comment 39:

I swear to God this is indecent. Life is too short let’s live in love and peace, each one should follow his own religion.

Comment 40:

God help them. I lived with my family 3 years and a half in a room that cannot accommodate a single person. What is important is that you are fine and healthy and things will get better.


Citizenship was a theme that appeared in posts usually tied to crime. There was always a concern about the citizenship or origin of the criminal.

Comments 41–44 were tied to a post about Malmö Police announcing the arrest of a 27-year-old man on charges of burning cars. There was no reference to a specific name or citizenship of the perpetrator. Nevertheless comments questioned his citizenship.

Comment 41:

His nationality is not mentioned???

Comment 42:

Hope he is not Syrian

Comment 43:

Son of a bitch [13] Take away his residency permit or citizenship. This country should only be inhabited by honorable people

Comment 44:

Ok, how do you know he is a refugee

Another post about a child who fell from a window and died (comments 45) focused on the citizenship of the child.

Comment 45:

Is the child a Swede

Commentators are clearly stressed about a correlation of crime to immigrant status. In spite of a lack of information, identity insecurity was on full display in these comments.

The outsider: Foreignness

Although many Arab immigrants have Swedish citizenship, the comments illustrated a perspective of outsiders, never referring to themselves as Swedes. It was always a dichotomous construction of “us” as immigrants/foreigners and “them” as Swedes. There were repeated doubts about ever being considered as Swedish (comments 46–55). A Swede with a foreign background was never considered equivalent to a native Swede. Hence there was an underlying sense of inequality and even oppression.

There were also feelings of being racialized in society. There were references to not being treated as equivalent to a native Swede and being discriminated for being a migrant. Hence some commentators called Sweden a false democracy in Sweden by virtue of the treatment of foreigners (comments 47–49).

Comment 46:

If he is a young Swede, the world would have not yet settled, but because he is an Arab, it makes no difference to them.

Comment 47:

O world, why don’t you react? Do you have democracy and freedom? Is it only taking off your clothes, drinking and being out late are the best benefits of living in Sweden. You understand that what’s happening is systematically organized and is beyond individual cases. At work, health, education, police and employment there is systematic hostility that increases every day. How long will this silence last?

Comment 48:

For those who say it’s (Sweden) the paradise of humanity and equality ... Either idiots, or are satisfied with humiliation and are forced to be silent.
Their deceiving actions and smiles are not convincing any more. We’ve discovered them. Whatever you do you are a slave and with your four-digit number written on your forehead. The Master is from the “sson” family, the civilized, blond and smart. The slave according to their assessment has no value here. Just one of the slaves, son of a slave and died, freedom with pain is honorable than slavery with “happiness”. And I will return to you, my homeland.

Comment 49:

Irresponsible and racial treatment of the Arabs in Sweden. I notice all this in the details of the daily life that we are living in Sweden.
Arab lawyers are required to follow the case and sue the police officers responsible for the deaths of young Rami. And show those in the media so that those who live in Sweden see the treatment that most Arabs living in Sweden

Comment 50:

Surely an immigrant because if he has been a Swede it is impossible to die in this way, Allah is my witness (I swear to God)

Comment 51:

It would have been impossible if he has been a Swede to have been treated like this. Racism

Comment 52:

Yeah. Racism

Comment 53:

Sweden is a state that oppresses foreigners ...

Comment 54:

They deal with the immigrants as if they were junk, and since then I don’t leave water from my hands. “Allah suffices me, for He is the best disposer of affairs” [14]

There was also a feeling of being racialized and discriminated (comment 55) by social services. Again, there was no evidence to back up the claims of the statement.

Comment 55:

If the child is of foreign origin, the social services will take away the rest of the children from his family ... But if he is a Swede then the incident is considered to be just fate and destiny ... May he RIP.

One could argue that integration policies failed to give a sense of belonging to new citizens. Instead the comments of being a slave in society follow Spivak’s (2010) post-colonial vision. Commentators strongly expressed that they were not welcomed in society as a whole and were racialized by native Swedes.

Belongingness theme: The insider

This theme was characterized by praise and defense of Sweden with some comparisons to the Middle East. For example, a post about Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and a Palestinian child (cancer patient) triggered positive feelings towards Sweden especially the modesty of Swedish leaders in comparison with Middle Eastern officials (comments 56–60).

Comment 56:

Do you see ... Extremely civilized and intelligent thoughts ... Love ... Humbleness of the soul ... Ethics ... Humanity ... Respect the Other ... Far from race, color or religion ... All this pleased the heart of God ... Because this is the will of God

Comment 57:

I say that the Swedish people in general can be described as kind, human and civilized with all the meanings that comes with those words, greetings to this great nation.

Comment 58:

A king, with all of the meanings that comes with the word. May God grant him a long life.
This is Islam without Muslims, the spirit of Islam in Sweden

Comment 59:

This is Carl Gustav not Salman bin Abdulaziz [15]

Comment 60:

This is Sweden not Saudi Arabia

Commentators felt welcomed in Swedish society (comments 56–57) and collectively constructed Swedes in a positive light (comment 57). Indeed, Islamic values seemed to be more practiced in Sweden in comparison to their homelands (comment 58). However this comparison triggered obvious responses that Sweden and Saudi Arabia are not equivalent (comments 59–60).

Political involvement

This theme was directly tied to posts on the elections. Some comments encouraged votes against Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats), and unite against racism. Some comments promoted Stefan Löfven, leader of Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats) (comments 61–77). Comments explicitly articulated that Social Democrats would provide a better future (comments 71, 74–75) and take a stand against racism (comment 77). Some comments were critical of immigrants not being careful in voting, pointing to conflicts between old and new migrants (comments 79–87).

Comment 61:

Vi håller med dig Loven ❤
We agree with you

Comment 62:

May God help you

Comment 63:

I hope you win

Comment 64:

The Social Democrats is the strongest party

Comment 65:

An internal feeling that the Social Democrat will win

Comment 66:

I wish you the best, Stefan

Comment 67:

Thank almighty God I elected him and my wife

Comment 68:

If I can, I will vote for you.

Comment 69:

ett starkare samhälle ett tryggare Sverige
a stronger society a safer Sweden

Comment 70:

S [Socialdemokraterna or Social Democrats] is for a better continuity and progress

Comment 71:

Everyone is supposed to vote one vote makes a difference

Comment 72:

Go and vote

Comment 73:

S means freedom and social justice

Comment 74:

Today Today is the last day, vote for your children and their future

Comment 75:

With God’s willing the Social Democrats will win because if the SD wins then it is a disaster

Comment 76:

Vote for the environment and the left. The most humanitarian party that is working for immigrants

Comment 77:

We must be against racism with all its forms so as not to continue in their racist rhetoric; racism is like cancer a sickness that we witnessed in our countries in the name of religion, doctrine and nationalism. What happened is just killing, displacement and destruction of our countries because of racism.

Comment 78:

With God’s willing, you will lose

These comments clearly expressed an “us” and “them” dichotomy (comments 79–87). Additionally, there was a conflict between old and new immigrants. In the next series of comments, there was support for both Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats) and Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats). As might be expected, commentators rather rapidly denigrated those whose opinions were considered ill-informed or even ignorant.

Comment 79:

In fact, the Swedish media has discrimination and is working for the benefit of the parties that formed the current government and does not give the same space to the other parties, especially the SD, the only party that loves Sweden and wants good

Comment 80:

The one who destroyed our homes and the homes of the new immigrants and steals the country is S that has many supporters without knowledge or with false knowledge

Comment 81:

One of the worst parties that governs Sweden is the Social Democratic Party and the dirty environmental party

Comment 82:

Haaa, oh why are you so scared, Syria welcomes you back

The next series of comments (83–87) focused on differences between old and new immigrants and their party affiliations, Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats) and Socialdemokraterna (Social Democrats). Old immigrants were painted in disparaging fashions, even to the point of accusing them wildly of racism and fascism.

Comment 83:

Our old group (i.e., old immigrants) do not want Löfven [Stefan Löfven, leader of Social Democrats] to win the elections. They want the racist party since it will deport the new immigrants, I mean the Syrians, as if the Syrians were living on the aid of those old mad people.

Comment 84:

With God’s willing, you will win (in reference to S) and the old Arabs (meaning old immigrants) who want to vote for the racist party, by God’s willing, it will fire back and the party’s plans for Sweden will affect them

Comment 85:

There are people who don’t understand my brother (tagged the name of the commentator) (replying to a comment) ... But the problem of racism is in our blood and they want to destroy their countries of origin and the country that offered us all the good things

Comment 86:

The Swedes of non-Swedish origin are not Swedes and they are not suitable for Sweden. Even the German Nazi Party was not in the rudeness and racism of the head of the SD. Those who elected him, how can you elect someone who denies you and hates you as well.

Comment 87:

The racist are the old asylum seekers, they forgot their situation




From the quantitative analysis, posts on news were the most dominant genre on the Alkompis Facebook page. The most frequent posts on news posts on the page were political in nature (altogether 89 posts), followed by those on crime then those dedicated to news from abroad. Some posts generated a great deal of commentary, such as Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl’s remarks in Arabic at the U.N, General Assembly.

Qualitatively, there were several recurring themes across the posts, including racialization, counter racialization, citizenship and foreignness (the outsider), Belongingness/Swedishness (the insider), and political involvement.

Racialization was constructed collectively against asylum seekers, describing alleged abuses of Swedish social benefits. Commentary eventually devolved into a “go back to your homeland” discourse. There was a dichotomy about how some commentators considered themselves relative to other Arabs living in Sweden and to those living in the Middle East.

Racialization appeared in different levels. The “us” and “them” dichotomy appeared during disagreements. These comments reflected a number of diverse internal conflicts as well as distancing from crime or criminal acts.

It appeared that in some cases commentators had not totally shed a variety of problems from their original national states in their new home, Sweden; this situation needs to be investigated further. Commentary on religion and ethnicity revealed much about the state of mind of commentators, and their relations with other immigrants from the Middle East in Sweden.

There appeared a great deal of sympathy for the label of ‘Other,’ of not fitting in Swedish society. On occasion, internal racialization and foreignness appeared when some commentators felt they were victims of racialization. The feeling of being an outsider appeared in comments with a dichotomous construction — “us” as immigrants/foreigners and “them” native Swedes.

The theme “foreignness” reflects a problem of integrating migrants in Swedish society. Commentators repeatedly noted their difficulties in being considered Swedish and impressions of discrimination as a result. These issues could be resolved at a political and policy level, with stronger efforts at integration of immigrants of all varieties into Swedish society.

What does it mean to be integrated? From a Swedish perspective, immigrants should adopt to a new culture and society, but there are multiple challenges facing immigrants. Integration should be a two-way concept where both sides are open to accept each other. An integrated society in a global world should feature hybrid identities (Maalouf, 2000; Ezz El Din, 2016), permitting the presence of more cultures in society. Integration, hence, is not longer unidirectional.

Since this sample was collected around an election, many comments related to political involvement. These comments revealed much about divisions in immigrant communities between “us” and “them,” old and new immigrants, and their perceived political affiliations. Further research appears to be needed in order to elicit details and correlations about specific immigrant communities and their political allegiances. End of article


About the author

Mahitab Ezz El Din is a senior lecturer and researcher at Linnaeus University (Sweden).
E-mail: mahitab [dot] ezzeldin [at] lnu [dot] se



This study was funded by Journalistfonden, Sweden.



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13. Insult not literally translated since no exact equivalent in English.

14. This is considered a prayer when one feels victimized.

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Editorial history

Received 2 February 2020; accepted 26 July 2020.

Creative Commons License
This paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Arab diaspora online media in Sweden: Arab migrants’ identity discourses on the AlKompis Facebook page
by Mahitab Ezz El Din.
First Monday, Volume 25, Number 9 - 7 September 2020