Norway: 61.5% of Muslims think demonstrations are unreasonable, 44% see signs of radicalization

Norway: 61.5% of Muslims think demonstrations are unreasonable, 44% see signs of radicalization

There were protests by Muslims on both Friday (~3,000 people ) and Saturday (~300 people).  Both were mostly peaceful, and the organizers put great emphasis that it would be so, though one of the speakers in the Friday protest 'warned' Norway of a terrorist attack if things continue as they are.  Aftenposten also reports people shouted "bomb, bomb", but their video report about it doesn't show that. 

There's an interview with one of the protest guards in English here (~2:00) and video of the Saturday protest here.

Meanwhile, there were actually riots in Oslo.  several people were arrested on both Thursday and Friday night during riots which ensued after the police evicted squatters.  The municipality says the place is a fire hazard.  The house had been occupied by about 20 students, unemployed people and artists. (NO, NO)

More news of the demonstrations and political responses below.


Norwegian Muslims protested on Saturday as well against what they think is persecution of Muslims in Norwegian society.

According to the Oslo police, more than 300 people participated in the demonstration.

The signs said "Stop persecution of Islam" and "Yes to freedom of speech - no to abuse".  The demonstration was calm.

The organizers had been in contact with the police and organized their own guard to ensure a peaceful demonstration.

According to the head of the demonstration committee, Mohammed Khalil, the demonstration was not a continuation of the protest on Friday against the Muhammed cartoon which was printed by Dagbladet.

"We're demonstrating against persecution of Muslims in Norwegian society which has been ongoing systematically, with harassment and bullying of Muslims over a long time.  the printing of the Muhammed cartoon was the last straw," Khalil told VG Nett.

During Friday's demonstration, one of the speakers, Mohyeldeen Mohammad, warned of a terror attack on Norwegian soil.  The organizers of Saturday's demonstration used the opportunity to mark their opposition to this.

"We disassociate ourselves from speakers who warn of terror.  We don't want to warn and threaten, but we will say what we think," said Fatima Khalil, program head for the demonstration.

Khalil think terror warnings are the wrong means to punish Dagbladet after printing the Muhammed cartoons.

"We want that those responsible will be punished according to the racism law," she says.

The Islamic Council of Norway also came out with an announcement on Saturday, saying they rejected the statements which were characterized as implicit threats.

The Council warned against participating in the weekend's demonstrations, out of fear of riots.  This angered some of the demonstrators.

"I'm displeased that the Islamic Council doesn't support a demonstration which is peaceful and legal," says Fatima Khalil, and calls other to apply to to the police to demonstrate.

Q: What do you think of the Islamic Council's handling of the caricature case?

A: I think they've handling it very loosely and cowardly, says Khalil

Like the beginning of Friday's demonstration, the Saturday demonstration was legal.

"They've asked for permission and got it," confirms Even Jørstad of the Oslo police district.

Tor Olav Heggem told VG Nett that the police took into account that there could be riots, but speak highly of the organizers.

"This proceeded painlessly.  People acted exactly as we agreed with those who arranged it, and it went very well."


Jan Bøhler (Labor) and André Oktay Dahl (Conservatives) responded harshly to Mohammad's wording.

"It's both harmful and not smart.  It's harmful for the minority communities that he hints and indicates that there are such forces in Norway.  It's also very not smart to drag in one of the most dramatic attacks in modern time in order to get what people want," says Bøhler, who's the deputy head of the parliamentary justice committee.

Mohyeldeen Mohammad doesn't understand the criticism.

"It was a warning.  We must speak out when the media goes too far.  And the media in Norway has gone too far, and the authorities are doing nothing.  It was a warning from a citizen of this country," he told VG Nett.

Q: Do you think there will be a terror attack against Norway?

A: Not at first, but if this continues, then it can happen.  Muslims don't accept the printing of these caricature drawings," he says.

Q: Do you think some Muslims will turn to violence against Dagbladet, which printed the cartoons.

A: Only Allah knows if violence will be used.  That I don't know.  I think they will have to consider it.  We also fear that it would happen.  Muslims will get a bad reputation then," he answers.

The other deputy leader of the parliamentary justice committee, Oktay Dahl (Conservatives) was at the demonstration on Friday afternoon.

"This can easily be understood as a poorly concealed threat.  If people think seriously and want to be responsible, it's extremely distressing that they mention that there can be a terror attack on Norwegian soil.  They can't read a goal with poorly concealed threats," thinks Oktay Dahl.

"I think it's incredibly disappointing," he adds.

"He can think what he wants," responds Mohyeldeen Mohammad.

"It think there might be a terror attack against Norway if the persecution of Muslim continues.  What people see in it is up to them.  It was a warning, not a threat," he says.

Aftenposten columnist Usman Rana also reacted to Mohyeldeen Mohammad's wording.

"To use terrorism to create fear among people is very un-Islamic.  I think these warnings are extremely inappropriate and the under-tone in it, by my understanding, should be condemned.  It's not representative of Muslims in Norway," Rana told VG Nett.

Q: Do you think these statements might be representative of a little group of Muslims in Norway?

A: I think and hope that it's something only he stands for.  But at the same time I want to urge young Muslims on the Internet not to be misleads by agitators who aren't interested in Islam's teachings, answers Rana.

"Norway's security is just as important for Norwegian Muslims as for all other Norwegians," he adds.

At the beginning of the demonstration on Friday there was a prayer, and a young boy read from the Koran.

There were also several speeches which stressed that demonstrators should act properly.  VG Nett spoke to several Norwegian Muslims who think it was wrong of Dagbladet to print the caricature drawing showing the prophet Muhammed as a pig.

Neither the demonstrators not the organizers wanted to speak to the media, aside form the speeches they gave.

The first keynote speaker noted that so many people came from so many different countries, though the organizers had been called radical Muslims, and for one thing - our beloved prophet Muhammed.

"Why should the abuse of freedom of speech be so reasonable?  All of us here agree that this isn't right.  If so many can come out and be injured, this can't be right.  The question is: who is really served by then, when society becomes what it's becoming?"

A few dozen demonstration guards in yellow vests were observed among the people at the beginning of the demonstration. One who those was Yousef Assidiq, who gave a short speech:

"I converted to Islam a year ago.  After that I'm mighty tired of being bullied in the media, bullied by everybody.  Since I felt that when I converted to Islam, I converted out of society.  I began to be harassed and had to read in the papers about my brothers with whom I arranged this - that they are criminal and extremists.  I am tired of being trampled in the media," says Yousef Assidiq.


Frp leader (Progress Party) Siv Jensen warns against what she calls the Islamization of Norwegian society.  She accused the Norwegian Labor party and Foreign Affairs Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of weakness and of lacking the will to deal with groups which use fear as a weapon.

"A year ago I was ridiculed because I warned against sneak-Islamization.  Now I can only say that I was right.  Norwegian values are under stronger and stronger pressure.  Islamization is in full swing," Jensen said at the Oslo Frp annual meeting Saturday.

Støre says that Jensen is leading policy with the help of scare tactics and that she uses rhetoric against all Muslims, which some see as going too far.

"Norwegian society is strong and ensures freedom of speech, human rights and rule of law regulations for everybody, including Muslims and Frp'ers.  If somebody comes with threats on the edge of the law, we have prosecution authorities which take care of such things.  It's a challenge to live together in greater diversity, but Norwegian cabinet ministers shouldn't be a thought-police," Støre told NTB.

Jensen referred to the Friday demonstration where three thousand Muslims protested the printing of a Muhammed drawing by Dagbladet.

"These are extreme groups which think we shouldn't have freedom of speech in Norway.  Why do they come to Norway to demand the implementation of the oppression they fled from in their homeland, I don't understand.  Now it's time for the silent majority among the integrated Muslims to also speak out," says Jensen.

She thinks the discovery of a morality police in Grønland in Oslo, thousands of striking taxi drivers and Friday's attack on freedom of speech are evidence that there's a 'dramatic' development in Norway.

"And as if that's not enough, we were served a threat that Norwegian society could be subjected to terror attacks according to the model of September 11 if we don't ban criticism of religion.  we need politicians who stand upright, who do not shy away from such think like the government,' Jensen says.

She thinks several parties share the blame for what she calls a multi-year indulgent and awkward attitude from the government' side towards group who want to undermine Norwegian values.

"Both the Conservatives and Christian Democrats can examine themselves, but it's particularly the Labor Party (Ap) which failed.  It's first and foremost Ap's handling that I'm attacking and the criticism goes 21 years back.  This month it's namely 21 years since three thousand Muslims demonstrated in Oslo against the book "The Satanic Verses".  Also then it was about freedom of speech and also that time the threats were meat with a weak attitude by the government," Says the Frp leader.

She thinks the Rushdie case and the attacks against publisher William Nygaard changed the space for freedom of speech in Norway forever.

"The fear of reprisals came into Norwegian reality"

The result was limited maneuverability and self-censorship.  In 1997 Salman Rushdie came to Norway and criticised Gro Harlem Brundtland who was prime minister when the fatwa was declared in Tehran.  Nobody in Ap's leadership wanted to meet him. Rushdie was shunned like the plague.  Ap's way of dealing with freedom of speech was a direct reason for the caricature controversy in 2006, says Jensen.

She accuses the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre of thinking that Vebjørn Selbekk of the Christian weekly Magazinet had themselves to blame for the threats which followed the publishing of the cartoons.

"It's an embarrassing part of the Ap's history, which is especially bad apparently when the party is in power.  Why is it like that?  Are they afraid of offending some country far away in a fight to get top positions in the UN?," asks Jensen.


Facebook shut down the support group for the Friday Muhammed cartoon demonstration.

"I'm surprised and don't understand it. There are far worse groups on Facebook than ours.  We are trying now to contact Facebook to get an answer as to why the site was shut," organizer Qasim Ali told TV2.

There were 2,000 members in the group on Thursday.  The group was discussed by the Norwegian media, on account of content supporting the Turkish hacker attack against Dagbladet and a link to a Jihadist site.


A VG Nett survey by InFact, shows that most people in Norway, 66.2%, think that protests by some Muslims following the publishing of the Muhammed cartoon by Dagbladet is unreasonable.

Men are most critical - 74.3% think it's unreasonable, compared to 59.2% of women.  A third of women have no opinion on the demonstration.

A large number of the Muslims of participated in the survey are also critical of the demonstrations: 61.5% think the demonstrations by some Muslims are unreasonable.

Only a third of the Muslim respondent (34.6%) think that those who protested against the Muhammed cartoons are right.

Fewer than a tenth of all those interviewed think the demonstrations were reasonable, according to the interview by a national representative group of 1035 people above 18.

Danish caricaturist Kurt Westergaard, told VG Nett that he supports Dagbladet's publishing, but stresses that he thinks the angry Muslims have a right to demonstrate.

"Freedom of speech gives Muslims the right to demonstrate.  As long as the protest is peaceful, I see no problem with it," Kurt Westergaard told VG Nett.

Asked whether they see signs of increasing radicalization among Muslims in Norway, more than half of the 1035 participants in the InFact survey said "yes".  40% of those said this makes them anxious.

Many of the interviewed Muslims, 44%, answered that they see signs of increasing radicalization.  A quarter of Muslims say that it makes them anxious.

44.3% of the Christians in the study say they're anxious of signs of increased Muslim radicalization.

Of all those who answered, less than 20% said they were concerned, while a third didn't know.

26% of the non-Muslim respondents in the study answered that they became more sceptical of Muslims in the past year.

10.6% say they have a more positive view of Muslims.  47.2% answered their view is unchanged, while 16.3% don't know.

In Central and northern Norway more people are becoming sceptical of Muslims: In central Norway 33.3% are more sceptical, while 31.5% are more sceptical in northern Norway.  In these areas more than half said they didn't know any Muslims at all.

Skepticism has not grown so much elsewhere in the country.  In southern Norway 20.9% are more sceptical, compared with 23.3% in Oslo and 25.1% in the rest of eastern Norway (Østlandet).  About half haven't changed their view of Muslims.

In Oslo 37.9% answered that they know many Muslims, 20.7% said they don't know any at all. In the south and west, more than half said they knew Muslims.

Of the respondents in the survey, 3% were Muslims, 3% belonged to other religions, 30% had no religion, and the rest were Christan.  The margin of error is 3%.


VG Nett also checked how much non-Muslims in Norway know about Islam.  1,000 Norwegian non-Muslims were asked: who is Muhammed in Islam?

52.8% answered correctly, namely that Muhammed is the most important prophet for Muslims, but the rest answered incorrectly.

27.8% think Muhammed is the God of Muslims, 2% think he's an imam.  17.4% answered they don't know.  That means that close to half of the respondents don't know what is Muhammed's position in Islam.

16% didn't know what is the name of the most important holiday for Muslims, 1.2% said it's New Year's.  53.3% said it's the fasting month of Ramadan.

The correct answer is Id ul-Fitr, also known as "Id", at the beginning of the month of Ramadan.

Asked what halal means, 37.7% said it means not being allowed to eat pork, 3.3% think it's a requirement for women to cover themselves, 36.5% didn't know what it means.

Just 22.5% knew that halal means 'permitted'. 

Sources: VG 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (Norwegian), BT (Danish)

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