Hundreds of Muslims and activists congregated Saturday to form a symbolic "peace ring" protecting Oslo's only synagogue, offering both protection for the country's Jewish population and condemnation of extremism in the wake of a series of deadly anti-Semitic shootings.
After a religious extremist's deadly shooting spree in neighboring Copenhagen killed two people and wounded five police officers earlier this month, Reuters reports that more than 1,000 people participated in the planned rally to demonstrate solidarity with the victims. Shouting "No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia," the crowd announced their intent to stand against all forms of religiously justified violence and proved themselves allies of the Bergstien Street synagogue in Oslo.
Organizer Hajrad Arshad had previously told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) that she intended the rally to "extinguish the prejudices people have against Jews and against Muslims." She added, "We think that after the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, it is the perfect time for us Muslims to distance ourselves from the harassment of Jews that is happening." The Times of Israel reported that one English-language comment on the rally's Facebook page warned "if anyone wants to commit violence in the name of Islam you will have to go through us Muslims first."
According to NRK, the rally was originally intended to go forward if as few as 30 Muslims showed up. The eventual crowd dwarfed that number, as photos and videos from the rally posted on Twitter showed:
"Humanity is one and we are here to demonstrate that," protest organizer Zeeshan Abdullah told the crowd and gathered members of Oslo's Jewish community, according to Haaretz. "There are many more peace mongers than warmongers. There's still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds." Haaretz also reported that Norway's Jewish community numbers just 1,000, compared to 150,000 to 200,000 Muslims.
In the wake of the Copenhagen attacks, Reuters reports that far-right populist movements like the Danish People's Party are gaining traction by advocating harsher police treatment of potential terrorism suspects and the Muslim community. But as Saturday's rally demonstrates, Oslo's Muslim community cares deeply about the hate being advocated in the name of their religion, and they're not afraid to call out the few responsible.
The next time someone brings up the supposed non-existence of moderate Muslims willing to denounce extremism, show them this.