Siavosh Derakhti was outraged at the anti-Semitic views he heard expressed in his hometown of Malmö. In response he started “Young Muslims against Anti-Semitism” in 2010 – now “Youth Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia.”

Siavosh Derakthi with members of his organization
Siavosh Derakthi with members of his organization

He credits his parents, who are Iranians of Azeri heritage, with his understanding of what it is to be a minority. “Growing up, my best friends were a Jewish guy and a Roma guy. We were all from minority groups: We were born in Sweden and we loved Sweden, but we felt excluded in our own country. To me that’s a huge problem.”
Today he is 23 and has garnered international attention for his activism (Obama met with him when he visited Sweden). It’s been harder for Derakhti to get the ear of local politicians in Malmö, he feels they largely ignore the issue.
While it is certainly possible to be critical of Israeli policy without being anti-Semitic, much anti-Semitism in Sweden today uses Israeli policy as a pretext to bad-mouth Jews in general. Derakhti says he wants clear boundaries when these issues are discussed.
“[When politicians] talk about anti-Semitism in Malmö they immediately drag in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the occupation and mention other groups in Sweden that are also subject to racism. That to me is out of bounds. We need to focus on the topic at hand. True, to fight anti-Semitism, we must also fight Islamophobia, anti-Roma sentiment and homophobia, but none of that will be effective, unless we tackle one issue at a time.”
He started his organization because he wants Jews to feel safe on the streets of his city, as well as to build bridges between Jews and Muslims, who he feels should be allies in the fight against racism and xenophobia in Sweden. “The biggest mistake we make is competitive victimhood. We need to work together,” he says.
In his work with Youth against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia, he lectures in schools and does outreach work where he meets with young people once a week in a ten-week program in which they do field trips and meet Jewish youth. “These are young people from all over Malmö, different cultural backgrounds, different ages, genders. The important thing is they get to meet each other for the first time.”
At the end of the day this is his mission, “sure, there are extremists, but the most dangerous thing of all is good people staying silent.”
Click here to read “Muslims, Jews and Anti-Semitism in Sweden: Part 1, It’s Complicated.”