An Afghan refugee turned-famous Swedish expert on education and integration, Hamid Zafar, had his perfect public image ruined after a local newspaper discovered hateful comments he posted online under a pseudonym.
Zafar arrived in Sweden as a refugee child and rose to prominence as a symbol of successful integration. Brought up in what is being described as a “socially vulnerable” district of Gothenburg, the man took charge of a troubled local school and became known throughout Sweden simply as ‘Rector Hamid’.
His career has been on the rise ever since. Between working at the Swedish Schools Inspectorate and giving lectures at Karlstad University, he has frequently appeared on Swedish media as a pundit. He was also an independent expert with the integration commission of the center-right Moderate Party.
In 2018, he was named ‘Swede of the Year’ by Swedish Focus magazine, and became the head of the Children and Education Department in the southern municipality of Mullsjo.
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This week, however, journalists from Dagens Nyheter (DN) uncovered the education expert’s ‘dark side’, reporting that between 2011 and 2016, Zafar anonymously posted hateful comments online.
Zafar denounced his opponents as “Zionist dogs” in social media arguments, and criticized the distribution of a book about the Holocaust in Swedish schools, arguing it would create “mass psychosis” and fill students’ heads with the idea of “how terrible Holocaust was.”
In other comments and posts that have since been deleted, Zafar scolded the Swedish Lutheran Church for allowing homosexual marriages, and mocked Hazaras – an Afghan ethnic minority considered one of the most oppressed groups in Afghanistan.
The scandal prompted the Mullsjo authorities to immediately fire Zafar from his position as the Children and Education Department head. The municipality rushed to “distance itself from Hamid Zafar’s… views and statements,” calling the situation a “crisis of confidence.”
We have come to a conclusion that our confidence in Hamid Zafar has been so much damaged that it is now impossible for him to continue his work.
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Zafar himself did not dispute DN’s findings and admitted he wrote the posts. He called them youthful indiscretions, even though he was between 28 and 33 years old at the time, and said the statements were made during a “destructive” period of his life.
Zafar said he has “distanced himself from such opinions since then and left them behind.” He did not apologize though, saying that those who are without sin “are welcome to throw the first stone.”
Meanwhile, organizations he has worked with continue to cut ties with the disgraced expert and terminate his contracts. Scheduled TV appearances have been canceled, and he lost his position as a columnist in the Goeteborgs Posten newspaper. The Moderate Party also advised him to “resign” from its integration commission.
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