The prime minister, leaders of all Norwegian political parties and thousands of others were joining Norwegian Muslims who mobilized last week to demonstrate on Monday against Islamic extremist group IS and local group Profetens Ummah. “Enough’s enough,” claimed one of many Norwegian Muslims who accuse the extremists of “kidnapping” their religion to suit their own bloody ends.
“They’re destroying Islam,” Issam Bouiri, a 27-year-old lawyer who works for the Oslo Fire Department told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend. “I don’t know anyone who supports Profetens Ummah. They have freedom of expression and use it to stir up prejudice and hate.”
Bouiri is just one of hundreds of Muslims in Norway, many of them high-profile, who have latched on to the initiative of a Muslim student last week who started organizing a major demonstration against Islamic extremists. It was to begin at 5pm Monday with a protest march from Grønlands torg to Parliament, where Prime Minister Erna Solberg was set to be among those making appeals. Many other top politicians, church leaders and around 40 community organizations are also taking part in the march against extremism.
Support from abroad has also been strong. After newsinenglish.no wrote about the planned demonstration last week, hundreds of readers have expressed support, with many saying they wished they could be in Oslo to take part. Others wrote about starting up similar demonstrations against extremism in their own communities.
Noman Mubashir of Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) said it was “high time” that Muslims rose up against extremism, claiming that he’d long been furious over Norwegian extremists like Ubaydullah Hussain, who enraged many when he told VG Nett last week that he and others in Profetens Ummah support what the brutal Islamic State (IS) is doing in Syria and Iraq. Hussain, who has proclaimed that Oslo’s Grønland district is a “Muslim zone,” also infuriated many Muslims when his group drove a car around Grønland proclaiming from a megaphone that Allah “must give victory to the Mujahideen in Iraq, Syria, the Philippines and all over the world.” Their appeal was picked up by TV2.
“Here comes that idiotic young boy, Ubaydullah, who needs massive amounts of attention,” proclaimed Bibi Thaiba Musavi, a 49-year-old woman who’s been living in Norway for 30 years. “The media gives him the attention he wants and that influences the lives of all of us others. What he’s doing is tragic,and he should be thrown out of the country.”
On Friday, imams at mosques all over Norway urged their followers at afternoon prayers to join the demonstration Monday against the extremist groups, leading officials to expect a major turnout. The Islamic Council of Norway also supported the demonstration and one was already held in Bergen on Saturday. Others seem likely to crop up.
“I seldom express myself regarding politics or religion,” Norwegian actor and comedian Abu Hussain told Aftenposten. “But to hear Ubaydullah Husssain say that he spoke on behalf of Norwegian Muslims really irritated me. No one I know likes him. Even the most conservative Muslims I know don’t agree with him. He speaks only for himself and the three others in Profetens Ummah.”
Defying threats and harassment
Lars Gule, a researcher of extremism and radicalization at the College of Oslo and Akershus, estimates that Profetens Ummah has between 100 and 300 supporters. That’s a tiny portion of Muslims in Norway but they’re suspected of being behind the constant harassment and threats sent via social media to those who publicly oppose them.
Linda Alzaghari of the think tank Minotenk, for example, has received email from anonymous opponents who “promise to stick a knife in your throat and cut your head off like IS does.” She as reported such threats to police. Her colleague, Yousef Assidiq, has been told he should “burn in hell.” He is convinced that extremism must be seen as a major problem, also in Norway. Many people are afraid to stand up to the extremists, which is what makes the groundswell of support for Monday’s planned demonstration so significant.
It was initiated by a student from Vest-Agder on Norway’s southern coast, Thee Yezen Al Obaide, who also has received threats for promoting the demonstration over social media. “I get more angry than scared that they use threats and dictatorial techniques,” he told Aftenposten. He’s glad so many have supported his effort, but said he has no intention of remaining a Muslim activist. “I don’t want to be a media hound,” he said.
Alzaghari said she glad that so many has signaled their participation in the march against extremism. “We won’t know until we see how many actually turn out whether this is a breakthrough,” she said as another threat ticked into her email.”I am, though, a cautious optimist.”