Sweden’s deputy prime minister has come under fire for describing the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon as “accidents.”
Environment Minister and Green Party chair Asa Romson made the comments on Tuesday morning during a live televized interview about party colleague Mehmet Kaplan, who resigned as housing minister earlier this week over statements likening Israel to Nazi Germany.
“He has been chairman of Young Muslims in tough situations like the September 11 accidents and similar,” Romson told public broadcaster SVT in praise of Kaplan, according to Swedish news site The Local.
Kaplan, a member of the junior coalition partner Green Party, had himself been in hot water since the weekend when media published old video footage of him making controversial remarks about Israel’s politics toward Palestinians.
During a March 2009 debate on Islamophobia organized by a Somali organization, Kaplan, who was a member of parliament at the time, said there were “similarities” between the persecution of Jews by Nazi Germany during the 1930s and the everyday lives of Palestinians.
Following her television interview, Swedish social media erupted with criticism of Romson’s comments, with some calling for her to also resign.
Americans – what do u think about Swedish minister Åsa Romson calls #9/11 for "accident"? To all victims, survivors, US – I'm sorry #säkpol
— Sylvia (@Syloc) April 19, 2016
Responding to the comments, Romson said that she refused “to let terror set the agenda. Not then, not now.”
“We must not let extremism cloud our judgement or fall to the low point where immigrants or Muslims are collectively blamed as a result of the acts of extremists,” she told news site The Local.
Falling short of an apology, Romson clarified that despite her reference to the “accidents,” she was aware that the September 11, 2001 attacks were acts of terror.
“Let there be no doubt: the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001 were one of the most vile acts of terror and disastrous violations of the open, free and democratic society in modern history,” she said. “The tragedy for the world and the families of the almost 3,000 human beings who perished as a result of the attack cannot be overstated.”
This is not the first time Romson has caused controversy over comments made during a live television interview. In May 2015, she was forced to apologize for comparing the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean to the horrors of the Holocaust.
Deploring the desperate situation of migrants trying to make the perilous and often deadly crossing to Europe, Romson said of European migration laws, “we are … turning the Mediterranean into the new Auschwitz.”
Critics, including Jewish leaders, called the comparison to the Nazi death camp misguided and offensive. About 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed in Auschwitz during World War II.
Romson apologized in a tweet, saying “It was wrong to make the comparison with Auschwitz.”