An estimated 1,000 young Muslims in Oslo had already signed up by Wednesday to help form a “ring of peace” around the city’s synagogue this weekend. Social media exposure was also expanding the peace initiative to other synagogues or Jewish centers around Norway.
The ring around the synagogue in Oslo comes at the initiative of a group of Muslim youth reacting against escalating terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists. They plan to stand hand-in-hand around the synagogue to show their disgust for anti-Semitism and violence based on religious hatred.
By Wednesday evening their initiative had spread to Bergen, where a “ring of peace” was also to be formed around the city’s centrally located Music Pavilion. The goal is to show support for the Jewish community in Norway, not least after an Islamic extremist gunned down a security guard outside a synagogue in Copenhagen last weekend.
“We can’t let extremists spread their message on behalf of all the rest of us,” Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the young Muslim peace activists in Oslo, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He was pleasantly surprised that so many people were latching on to his group’s initiative. It follows another Muslim-led initiative last summer that led to thousands of people marching through Oslo to denounce the brutality and attempts to spread fear by extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS).
“It’s important that we step forward and show that we stand for peace and harmony, both now and in the future,” Abdullah said. The demonstration was officially approved on Wednesday by police, who will also be on patrol outside the synagogue when the event unfolds on Saturday.
The group’s Facebook page was also gathering international support on Wednesday after the Jerusalem Post reported on the event as did the Washington Post. Ervin Kohn, leader of the Jewish community in Oslo (Det mosaiske trossamfunn), was delighted by the young Muslims’ initiative and that so many had signed on. Several organizers visited the synagogue Wednesday afternoon and met with Jewish leaders.
“There are so many nice comments on the Facebook page,” Kohn told NRK after a week during which he also received a visit by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, to express her personal support in the wake of the Copenhagen attack.
“I hope it will be full of people here on Saturday,” Kohn said, adding that the Muslim group’s ambition “is to stand up for Jews and against anti-Semitism. That’s a nice signal, and it can be the beginning of something.”