On a chilly Saturday evening in Oslo, Norway’s Muslims made history in a way that captured the world’s attention.
A group of young Norwegian Muslims came together and decided to send a clear message to the world by forming a human shield around a synagogue in Oslo.
This show of solidarity came in light of the recent terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen that have raised significant concerns about the safety and security of the Jewish community in Europe. Fanatical youth perpetrated these attacks, targeting both Jewish people and institutions. The perpetrators can only be described as violent criminals.
These fatal attacks have sparked debates on “rising anti-Semitism” in Europe and on whether Islam was the main motivator for their brutal violence.
My response is that those who live in accordance with Islam know that these acts have no place within our religion. Islam stands for peace and humanity like many other religions. But the fact remains that the tragedies in Paris and Copenhagen both involved angry, alienated, young Muslim men. As a result of these attacks Muslims in Europe face significant prejudice and are very often ”forced” to justify themselves. I have never understood how it is possible to prove one’s innocence by virtue of belonging to any one religion.
The human circle around the synagogue intended to show the true values that Islam stands for. It was a way for us to take”ownership” of Islam back from fanatics who damage the reputation and essence of our religion. The international media was eager to give this coverage and reported on it widely.
According to police estimates, up to 2000 people joined the circle around the Synagogue. One of the organizers put it beautifully by saying: “There are many more peacemongers than warmongers. There’s still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.”
There is no doubt that many of the organizers and the participants deeply disagree with Israel´s blockade of Gaza and the violations of human rights in Palestine. However, this event is unique in many ways. It was heart-warming to see young people trying to give hope in a world with so much conflict. This event at least gave much hope to the Muslim and Jewish communities in Norway. Political disagreement and one country´s unacceptable foreign policy should never be a cause of disrespect or anger towards any community.
As always, Norway is leading the way in terms of inter-faith dialogue. This is no surprise to anyone who understands Norwegian society. The commitment to essential values such as solidarity, humanity and tolerance are deeply ingrained in every Norwegian. Even if the world´s leaders are using the power of government to fight terrorism we should all make an effort within our communities to do so.