A Palestinian family has fled a small town in Southern Norway after facing death threats and attempted break-ins at their home. A Norwegian man was recently convicted for spreading hateful comments on social media. A man from Kapp Verde who has lived in Norway for 31 years was a target of verbal abuse while out shopping in Oslo. Incidents of registered hate crimes are reaching new heights in Norway, and police fear many still go unreported.
Joao Baptista Dos Santos was totally unprepared for the torrent of racist remarks directed at him by a white Norwegian man in his 50s last winter. Dos Santos, his partner and their baby were on their way to go shopping in the Storo district of Oslo when he suddenly was called a jævla svarting (roughly translated, “goddamn black”) who should “get out of the country.” Dos Santos, who has lived in Norway since 1985, was stunned.
“That sort of thing shouldn’t happen when you’re out walking with your family,” Dos Santos told newspaper Aftenposten earlier this summer. When the racist torrent continued, with no clear provocation, Dos Santos summoned a police officer who had just been talking with the man, who appeared unruly.
“When he was finished talking with the police, he started following us and slinging these racist comments,” Dos Santos said. “I waved over the police officer and alerted him to what was happening.” The police registered the man’s identity and called Dos Santos a few days later, asking him if he would report the offense. Dos Santos said he would and they later met in court.
“It was actually good to stand face to face with him in court,” Dos Santos told Aftenposten. “He took my hand and apologized. I told him he shouldn’t go around saying things like he had.”
It was just one of many hate crimes reported so far this year to police who say the number of cases is rising sharply. Registered cases more than doubled, from 69 to 143 last year with another 76 so far this year, just in Oslo, where the police district has set up a special unit to handle them. State prosecutors have also asked police districts around the country to make hate crime a priority. “We think many cases go unreported,” Monica Lillebakken, leader of the Oslo Police District’s hate crime division, told Aftenposten. “We’re encouraging people subjected to this to involve the police.”
On Monday, Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported the disturbing case of a Palestinian refugee family who felt compelled to also flee the small town of Sirdal in Southern Norway, where they’d been resettled, after being threatened. An intruder circled the house they were renting and at one point, reported local newspaper Agder/Flekkefjords Tidende, a man broke the window in their kitchen door and tried to open it from the inside.
“When my wife started screaming and began to cry, the intruder yelled ‘if you don’t move, we’ll kill you,’ before he disappeared,” the father of the family, who requested anonymity, told Agder/Flekkefjords Tidende.
Local police are taking the case seriously, along with reports from Norwegian neighbours of the family who also had been threatened. The Palestinian family thinks their neighbours were threatened because they had been kind to the family. Neither the local mayor nor the principal at the local school wanted to comment on the case.
Last week, a 37-year-old man from Fetsund, northeast of Oslo, was convicted 0f spreading hatred towards Muslims on social media. The commentary field on a Facebook page recorded a highly racist exchange between him and others that suggested shooting Muslims, running them down on the street and throwing bananas at them, among other things.
They were responding to a photo in the newspaper Fredrikstadavisa that showed a Muslim tourist family praying outdoors in the shade under a bridge in Fredrikstad. The man convicted claimed he merely got carried away and claimed in court that he didn’t mean for his suggestions to be taken literally. He was ordered to pay a fine of NOK 12,000 (USD 1,500) or spend 22 days in prison. The newspaper also felt compelled to remove the photo from its own website, so as not to incite more hatred.
Newspaper Vårt Land, meanwhile, reported earlier this month on how a hairdresser in Bryne, Western Norway, was facing court action because she refuses to cut the hair of women wearing hijabs. She was charged with discrimination but intended to defend herself.
“I simply get anxiety attacks because of the totalitarian symbol that a hijab represents,” the hairdresser, Merethe Hodne, told Vårt Land. Hodne, who also has been active in an organization called Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge, reportedly also refused to allow women wearing a hijab into her hair salon. She was fined NOK 8,000 but refuses to pay the fine, resulting in the looming court action.
“I’m not surprised by stories like this,” said the leader of an anti-discrimination organization, Akhenaton de Leon. “Discrimination based on religion and skin color occurs in Norway every day.”
In Kongsvinger, meanwhile, a local museum was hosting a public debate and exhibit this summer on the headgear once common in their own local Solør district of Norway, and used by women to cover up their hair, also when wearing the traditional native Norwegian costumes known as a bunad. The museum called the white Norwegian linen headdress from the 1800 “the Solør hijab … in light of the current hijab debate.”
In Stavanger, a 37-year-old woman from Sri Lanka who’s married to a Norwegian received a Rogaland bunad from her husband and fashioned a hijab to go with it, using the same embroidery as on the bunad. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that also set off a torrent of racist comments online that also were reported to police. Those complaining had no problem, though, with similar hair-covering headgear called a skaut that’s still used with the Norwegian bunad from nearby Hardanger. It also symbolizes whether a woman is married or single.