‘No to anti-Semitism’: Norwegian Muslims form human chain around Oslo synagogue

Muslims join hands to form a human shield as they stand outside a synagogue in Oslo February 21, 2015. (Reuters/Hakon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix)
Muslims in Oslo formed a human chain around the city’s main synagogue, chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia.” Over 1,000 people took part in the rally to show solidarity with Jews just a week after a fatal shooting in a Denmark synagogue.

Muslims in Norway, many young women, formed what they called a ring of peace, as the small Jewish congregation filed out of the synagogue after Shabbat prayers on Saturday.

The Muslim message to the Jews in Norway was simple – they mourn and stand in solidarity with the victims of increasingly instances of violence against Jews in Europe, including the terror attacks in France in January and in neighboring Denmark last week.

“This shows that there are many more peacemakers than war-makers,”Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the organizers told the crowd.“There is still hope for humanity, for peace and love across religious differences and background.”

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The spirit of solidarity filled the air, with Norway’s chief rabbi performing a traditional Shabbat ceremony outside.

“It is unique that Muslims stand to this degree against anti-Semitism and that fills us with hope...particularly as it's a grassroots movement of young Muslims,” said Norway's Jewish community leader Ervin Kohn.

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Just to be on the safe side, authorities, apart from ramping up the police presence, also dispatched sharp shooters around the building.

“It has been calm as we expected. We had no reason to expect any trouble but we were prepared,” said police superintendent Steiner Hausvik, adding that about 1,300 people attended the vigil.

The disturbing spate of attacks against the Jewish minority in Europe prompted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge European Jews to immigrate to Israel if they felt unsafe. Europe’s Jewish population has been steadily declining over the past seven decades after the WWII. While in 1960 it was about 3.2 million, by 2010 only 1.4 million were living there – or roughly 0.2 percent of Europe’s population, according to the PEW Research Center.