The leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, turned up the tone even further when he gave a speech at the party's national conference in Västerås on Saturday.

The war between Hamas and Israel, and the domestic political discussion that followed this war, characterized large parts of the speech and Åkesson's message will hardly reduce the polarization on the issue.

Further steps in criticism of Islam

He lashed out at Islamists and called for the demolition of mosques used to spread undemocratic or anti-Semitic messages. He also wants the Security Service to be given the right to eavesdrop on conversations in mosques for preventive purposes.

In doing so, the Sweden Democrats are taking another step in their criticism of Islam. The issue has long been important to the party, but the heated discussion in the wake of Hamas's attack on Israel means that the party now wants to sharpen its tone even further.

The tone against the Social Democrats was also harsher and more intransigent than before. Jimmie Åkesson levelled serious accusations of collaboration with Islamist forces against both the Social Democrats and party leader Magdalena Andersson. Åkesson attacked, among other things, Andersson for not distancing himself clearly enough from Islamism for electoral reasons.

The criticism of the Social Democrats went down well in the congress hall. No other part of Jimmie Åkesson's speech was followed by such loud applause as the attacks on Magdalena Andersson and the Social Democrats.

Ability to fight back

An important explanation is that many Sweden Democrats think it feels good to be able to make up for old cheese. Social Democratic politicians have long accused the Sweden Democrats of being racists, anti-Semites and sometimes Nazis.

The domestic political discussion about Hamas and Israel now gives the Sweden Democrats an opportunity to fight back, for example by highlighting MP Jamal El-Haj, who participated in a conference with suspected links to Hamas.

Recently, several nonsocialist politicians, including KD leader Ebba Busch and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, have criticized the Social Democrats on this issue, but Jimmie Åkesson's attack was considerably harsher and more far-reaching.

It captures perhaps the most important explanation for the heightened tone of his speech, both in terms of the criticism and the concrete proposals that were presented.

Wants to preserve the special status

Much of it has to do with the fact that SD feels the need to sharpen both its policy and its rhetoric. The party is now part of a coalition government and has agreed on large parts of the policy in the Tidö Agreement.

At the same time, several other parties in the Riksdag have adopted some of SD's policies and rhetoric. The SD strategists are worried that this will erase the party's profile and therefore want to sharpen it further with tougher statements and more far-reaching proposals. Åkesson's speech should be seen as an expression of that ambition.

Ultimately, it is a matter of wanting to preserve the party's special position and to try to show voters that, despite the coalition government, SD still has the toughest policies when it comes to immigration, integration and crime.