In the wake of the attacks on Jews in Copenhagen and France, more than a thousand Norwegian Muslims gathered Saturday to form a human shield around Oslo’s synagogue. The group chanted, “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” as they stood in solidarity.
The Facebook page of the event explained the purpose of the event was to show that “Islam is to protect our brothers and sisters, independently of what religion they belong to. Islam is to rise above hatred and never sink down on the same level as the haters. Islam is to protect each other.”
“We want to demonstrate that Jews and Muslims do not hate each other,” Zeeshan Abdullah, an organizer of the event, told the crowd. “We do not want individuals to define what Islam is for the rest of us.”
The synagogue was attacked in 2006 and is currently closed to all car traffic as Norway is on high alert against threats. Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg also visited the synagogue on Monday after the Copenhagen shootings.
Norway’s Jewish community is Europe’s smallest, numbering just over 1,000 people. The Muslim community has grown recently due to immigration from Muslim countries including Pakistan and Somalia, to around 150,000 to 200,000 people. Both groups have seen a rise in intolerance in recent years, which flared up in 2011 when an anti-Islam gunman, Anders Breivik, killed 77 people. Before committing the massacre, Breivik posted a 1,500-page manifesto online railing against Muslim immigrants taking over Europe.
Oslo’s Rabbi Michael Melchior told the crowd outside the synagogue he had visited the family of the man killed outside the Copenhagen synagogue and told them about the planned peace ring, according to Norwegian broadcast service NRK.
“The father of Dan Uzan embraced me and began to cry. He said, ‘You must say to the young Muslims in Norway that they have given me hope,'” Melchior recounted. “‘They have given me a reason to continue living. Maybe it was a meaning to my son’s death. Maybe it gives reason to life for the future.'”