In the wake of several high-profile attacks by reactionary Muslims in Europe, hundreds of young Muslims in Norway put on a very important public display in Oslo this weekend by surrounding a synagogue in a symbolic pledge to protect Jews from such attacks there.
In the wake of the attacks on Jews in Copenhagen and France, more than a thousand Norwegian Muslims gathered Saturday to form a human shield around Oslo’s synagogue. The group chanted, “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia,” as they stood in solidarity.
The demonstration was organized by young Muslims in Norway last week after a gunman believed to hold extremist views went on a shooting rampage in nearby Denmark, targeting a synagogue.
The Facebook page of the event explained the purpose of the event was to show that “Islam is to protect our brothers and sisters, independently of what religion they belong to. Islam is to rise above hatred and never sink down on the same level as the haters. Islam is to protect each other.”
“We want to demonstrate that Jews and Muslims do not hate each other,” Zeeshan Abdullah, an organizer of the event, told the crowd. “We do not want individuals to define what Islam is for the rest of us.”
This demonstrates something important, I think. It shows that the most violent and extreme elements of Islam do not define Islam completely. And it also shows, I think, why Presidents Bush and Obama have repeatedly declared, falsely but understandably, that Muslim terrorists aren’t really Muslim at all, that they’re distorting Islam. That position is false, absurd even (as is the position that those extremist views are the only “real” version of Islam), but I do understand why they have to say that publicly. It helps strengthen the moderate elements of Islam and helps build bridges to them.
Ultimately, this isn’t really about the United States at all. While specific actions may give rise to grievances, some of them entirely legitimate, that provide the context in which this battle has arisen, I think ultimately this is a war within Islam itself. It’s a battle between those Islamists who want to return to the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries and those who seek an accommodation with modernism. Christianity went through the same fight a few centuries ago. The modernists will win in the end, but a lot of blood will be shed in the meantime.