An enormous human chain formed around an Oslo synagogue on Saturday night as over 1,000 people of all faiths braved the Scandinavian winter to show support for Norwegian Jews.
Muslim organisers said the “peace ring” event was their way of endorsing the country’s small Jewish community amid a tide of rising anti-Semitism in Europe.
It comes after an Islamist gunman last week killed a Jewish volunteer guarding the main synagogue in the Danish capital Copenhagen, and another killed four Jews in a kosher grocery store in Paris in January.
“We want to demonstrate that Jews and Muslims do not hate each other,” said co-organiser Zeeshan Abdullah, in an evening of positive messages. “We don’t want individuals to define what Islam is for the rest of us.”
Some pro-Israel activists however the event was “stained” by the involvement of Ali Chishti, one of the organisers, who had previously accused Jews of knowing about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
Eric Argaman, a member of Norway’s Jewish community, added that the peace ring “now feels more like a spin on our backs than a gesture of goodwill”.
In 2009 Chishti said: “There were several thousand Jews away from work in the World Trade Center… Jews are a small group, but everyone knows that they have a lot of power.” He has since disavowed the comments.
Ervin Kohn, head of the Jewish community of Oslo, said the initiative was “extremely positive” and could change the dynamics of minority relations in Scandinavia.