Religious racism shocks officials

The city officials in Oslo who ordered a report on racism and anti-Semitism in Oslo schools say they’ve been shocked by its findings: Jewish children report the most harassment, while religious racism appears widespread.

Stian Berger Røsland, who leads Oslo's city government, said he was deeply disturbed by the findings of religious racism in Oslo schools. PHOTO: Høyre

The report, conducted by analysis firm Perduco for the City of Oslo, questioned 7,212 students chosen at random from among 48 schools in the eighth to 10th grades.

The response, with fully 78 percent of the students answering the questions posed, revealed a worrisome degree of harassment based on religion or nationality: 15 percent of the students reported having experienced one or more incidents of harassment based on their nationality. Nearly 7 percent said they were harassed at least two to three times every month.

Students with ethnic Norwegian background were the least harassed, but the rate of harassment rose in line with the number of non-Norwegian students at their schools.

Most worrisome for school and city officials was the high level of Jewish students, 33 percent, who reported harassment at least two to three times a month. That compares to 5.3 percent of Muslim students who said they’d been  harassed. Fully 9 percent of the students responding said they’d been harassed at school because of their religion or faith, while Christians experienced the least harassment.

The harassment was reported to have come in the form of negative comments on the social media sites of those who have online profiles. Some were told their photos were “ugly” and others said their identities had been manipulated or wrongfully used. The digital mobbing was evenly spread between racist and anti-Semitic comments.

More than half of the students, 52 percent, said they’d experienced that the word jøde (Jew) was used to describe something negative. Fully 41 percent confirmed having heard jokes about Jews at school and 35 percent had noticed generally negative commentaries on Jews. As many as 5 percent had heard other students deny that the Holocaust occurred during World War II.

On a brighter note, 63 percent of the students responded that it was good that a wide variety of nationalities and religions is now found in Norway, but far fewer said they wished they had more friends with backgrounds different from their own.

City government leader Stian Berger Røsland, who was among those ordering the overview after Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on anti-Semitism in the schools last winter, said he was shocked and deeply disturbed by the findings.

“Here are young children who experience being harassed,” Røsland told NRK. “It’s heartbreaking and intolerable.”

Both Røsland and education officials said teaching plans would be changed to demand more knowledge and sharing of understanding of anti-Semitism and religious racism, starting in the fifth grade or earlier.

“Respect, tolerance, equality and inclusion must be made crystal clear in the schools’ educational program,” said director Astrid Søgnen of the city’s department of education.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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