Around Oslo’s synagogue it was called a ‘Ring of Peace’ – more than 1,000 Muslims offering symbolic protection for Norway’s Jewish community.
A human chain was formed amid condemnation of last weekend’s deadly attack by an Islamist gunman on a synagogue in neighbouring Denmark.
“I believe in strong values such as love, freedom and unity,” said event organiser Hajrah Arshad.
“And today we Muslims finally get an opportunity to show our version of our religion and change what the media writes about us. Today we get to show that Islam stands for peace and unity.”
Participants chanted: “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,“a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen.
For Jewish leaders, the message of solidarity was significant.
Ervin Kohn, President of the Jewish community in Oslo, said:
“I was asked after the attacks in Copenhagen: ‘What do you feel?’ And I answered: ‘Sorrow and anger’. But my answer today is, that I feel gratitude and hope.”
Norway’s Jewish community is one of Europe’s smallest, numbering around 1,000.
Its Muslim population, which has been growing steadily through immigration, is 150,000 to 200,000.
Norway has a population of about 5.2 million.
The debate over immigration in the country came to the forefront in 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people and accused the government and the then-ruling Labour party of facilitating Muslim immigration and adulterating pure Norwegian blood.
Support for immigration has been rising steadily since those attacks, however, and an opinion poll late last year found that 77 percent of people thought immigrants made an important contribution to Norwegian society.
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