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Norway’s ring of peace

Norway

Following recent incidents of violence targeting Jewish people across Europe, young Norwegian Muslims decided to make a public and proactive response to these attitudes.

Calling on members of their community, they formed a symbolic human shield, the ‘Ring of Peace’, around Oslo’s main synagogue, in a show of solidarity and in defiance of extremism.

‘Our fellow Jewish minorities are facing difficulties, as we have recently seen in Paris and Copenhagen,’ said Hassan Raja, one of the event’s organizers. ‘The “Ring of Peace” is our show of solidarity with the Jewish minority, to express that we won’t allow anyone to harm us as a multicultural and multi-religious society.’

Some 1,300 supporters filled the street outside Oslo’s only functioning synagogue. The number of supporters was roughly equal to that of the entire Jewish population of Norway, who remain a tiny minority due to historic anti-Semitism that barred Jewish people from entering Norway until the mid-1800s, followed by deportations during the Nazi occupation.

Members of the Jewish community who were present at the ‘Ring of Peace’ expressed their appreciation for the show of support. ‘I have been very impressed,’ said Michael Gritzman of the Jewish Community in Oslo. ‘I hope this will spread to other countries.’

One week later, a crowd of Norwegians stood in front of an Oslo mosque in another ring of solidarity, this time protesting against Islamophobia.

Dubbed the ‘Solidarity Ring’ by organizers, the event sought to counter negative impressions of Muslims resulting from media coverage of recent violence in France and Denmark. With these recent episodes and large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers emigrating to Norway and other northern European countries, anti-immigrant, and especially anti-Muslim sentiment, has risen.

‘Last week it was the Muslim youth who took the initiative, which was beautiful,’ said Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway. ‘This Saturday, non-Muslims took the initiative to stand in front of a mosque in solidarity, to show that we are against hate and violence against Muslims.’

‘When a Christian does something bad they don’t talk about their religion,’ said organizer Gitte Myhre. ‘It’s the individual that does something bad – not the religion.’

‘It’s important to focus on the new illness in Europe, which is hate against Muslims and minorities – the Jewish minority as well,’ said Afsar. ‘We stand together against all forms of hate, violence, terrorism and extremism – they have no room in our society.’

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Flowers in front of the Oslo Synagogue memorialize Dan Uzan, who was shot and killed while guarding a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark, February 21, 2015.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Young Muslim women stand hand-in-hand with more than 1,000 Norwegians of all faiths, in front of the Oslo Synagogue, during the ‘Ring of Peace’ vigil, February 21, 2015. The vigil was organized by Muslim youth in solidarity with Norway’s Jewish community following anti-Jewish attacks in Denmark and other parts of Europe.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

A young Muslim embraces a member of the Oslo Jewish community following the ‘Ring of Peace’ vigil, February 21, 2015.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Hundreds of Norwegians of all faiths and ethnicities link hands to form the ‘Solidarity Ring for Muslims’, in front of an Oslo mosque.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

A woman draped in a Palestinian flag holds hands with others forming the ‘Solidarity Ring for Muslims’ at an Oslo mosque.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Mehtab Afsar, secretary general of the Islamic Council of Norway greets Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community of Oslo, at the ‘Solidarity Ring for Muslims’. The previous week, Muslim youth had organized a ‘Ring of Peace’ at Kohn's synagogue in Oslo.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Member of the Muslim community listen as a local priest speaks to those gathered for the ‘Solidarity Ring for Muslims’.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is a freelance photojournalist and a member of the Activestills collective.

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