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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 21:55 GMT 22:55 UK
Attack on Swedish way of life

By Jorn Madslien
BBC News Online

The attack on Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh is being seen within the country as an attack on democracy and the Swedish way of life.

Young people gather outside the emergency entrance to Karolinska hospital in Stockholm
The attack sent shockwaves throughout Sweden
But although there is widespread support for Sweden's open society, many are also now questioning the wisdom of allowing government ministers to move about freely without any form of protection from bodyguards.

Ms Lindh, a staunch supporter of the euro, was stabbed just three days before the Swedish people vote in a referendum on whether or not it should join a monetary union and adopt the European single currency as their own.

And as this is written, nothing is known about the attacker's motives.

But many within Sweden's political elite and among the population as a whole worry about the implications if it is found that the two events are linked, that it is a politically-motivated attack rather a mindless act by a thug.

Calls for restraint

The stabbing brings back memories of the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme 17 years ago.

Olof Palme
Palme was shot dead, while walking with his wife home from the cinema

Then, as no doubt there will be now, there were calls for greater security.

But in the end the Swedish will to live in a society based on trust, a society where even politicians, business executives and royalty can move about freely without fearing for their lives, won the day.

This may now change - not just in Sweden, but across the Nordic countries where a culture of openness continues to rule despite the ever hardening atmosphere elsewhere in the world.

Certainly, all Swedes must now be feeling keenly the necessity of measures to prevent such events occurring again, and to find those responsible.

But this is also a time when many will wish to call for restraint, to warn against knee-jerk reactions and to ring-fence traditional Swedish values, beliefs and culture.

Profile: Anna Lindh
10 Sep 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Sweden
09 Sep 03  |  Country profiles

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