Sweden’s newly elected archbishop Antje Jackelén has admitted she wasn’t prepared for the online abuse she has received from anti-Islamists labelling the attacks as “spiteful.”
Jackelén became the first female archbishop of the Church of Sweden in October and is known for her views on religious tolerance and arguments in favour of a multi-faith Sweden.
She will take up the post next year but has already been the target of abuse by users on xenophobic online forums and Twitter who have slammed Jackelén for her beliefs and even her hairstyle.
“Choose Muhammed instead so we can be spared from your ugly old man’s haircut,” posted one user on a message board while another asked for her to be burned at the stake.
The new archbishop said she was taken aback by the online abuse but insisted she does not feel in any danger despite the nature of the hate-filled posts.
“I was not prepared for this spite and hatred. It’s clear that I am being personally referred to, it is hard to protect yourself when there is so much aggression,”Jackelén told Sveriges Radio P4 Kristianstad.
German-born Jackelén, a 58-year-old mother of two, is presently a bishop in Lund in southern Sweden and was the clear winner of October’s archbishop election where she clocked up 55.9 percent of the vote.
An early advocate of social media she posts regularly on Twitter and her number of followers has doubled to 5,600 since her election triumph.
She has been the subject of several death threats on social media with a lot of the abuse coming via Twitter.
“I know that there have been death threats which were then removed,” she said.
Jackelén added to P4 Kristianstad that most of the abuse is motivated by “nationalism and an incredibly great fear and hatred of Islam.”
Jackelén has courted controversy in the past for being unclear on her views on faith and saying there is no contradiction in believing in God as well as evolution.
She suggested that the virgin birth was a metaphor rather than an actual event, which is understood to have angered some in the Swedish clergy. Jackelén has said in the past she was unaware if her comments caused a split.
Following the revelations about the online attacks Jackelén reiterated that she wasn’t personally afraid but did concede that she was fearful about the development of hatred on the internet.
Jackelén will succeed outgoing archbishop Anders Wejryd when he steps down next summer.