Norway’s latest round of elections coincided Sunday with local and international memorials marking the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US. As politicians urged voters to preserve democracy also after the July 22 attacks on Norway, a planned demonstration against Islam in front of the US Embassy in Oslo all but fizzled out.
Police had cordoned off the area around the embassy, and embassy officials had even warned American citizens to stay away. While some might have found it natural to pay their respects to the victims of 9/11 with a visit to the embassy, its security chiefs discouraged the idea. In a bulletin e-mailed Friday to US citizens registered with the embassy in Oslo, they wrote that “American citizens are urged to avoid the area” and “exercise caution.”
That’s because a demonstration by the group Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge (Stop the Islamization of Norway, SIAN) was planned for 1pm on Sunday in front of the embassy on Henrik Ibsens Gate. Norwegians authorities, the embassy wrote, had “no specific information indicating the protest may turn violent,” but added that “even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into civil disturbance.”
As it turned out, only around 10 persons from the anti-Islamic SIAN group showed up. Those demonstrating carried a banner reading Glem aldri 11/9 2001 (Never forget 9/11 2001) and a spokesman told news bureau NTB that they wanted to mark the day “from SIAN’s position, which is that we fear rising influence of Islam and believe there is a direct connection between the religion of Islam and extremist acts.”
Not many seemed to share their concerns and the groups that often turn out to confront such demonstrations kept their distance, opting to merely yell slogans against racism. They reportedly outnumbered the SIAN demonstrators, with one saying he was there “because I have zero tolerance for racism and Islam-phobia, and I think their opinions are disgusting.”
Police clearly thought SIAN’s anti-Islamic demonstration could turn violent, coming so soon after an anti-Islamic, right-wing Christian terrorist killed 77 persons and injured scores of others in the July 22 attacks in Norway. Instead it was largely ignored and voters headed to local polling places that opened shortly after the demonstration began.
There were other personal and official memorials for 9/11 in Oslo, including services at the American Lutheran Church in Oslo, where the US ambassador to Norway, Barry White, spoke and several Norwegian politicians showed up in a sign of solidarity. They included the head of the Liberal Party, Trine Skei Grande, and the head of the Progress Party, Siv Jensen.
“It’s extremely important that moderate Muslims around the world show that we share the sorrow, and distance ourselves from extremist violence and terrorist,” said Abid Raja of the Liberal Party.
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