Mixed reaction over 'Muslim peace circle'


News that over 1,000 Muslims formed a "peace circle" around an Oslo synagogue on Saturday has attracted both praise and scepticism.

Billed as an act of solidarity with Norway's Jews after the Copenhagen attack, the initiative was celebrated on social media and by some Jewish leaders.

However, there have been claims that a vast majority of the crowd was made up of non-Muslims and that one of the organisers harbours antisemitic views.

A debate erupted on social media after someone who claimed to have attended the event said that there were only around 20 Muslims in the semi-circle and that the crowd of 1,300 consisted mainly of "ethnic Norwegians".

Others have questioned the motivations of one of the organisers, Muhammed Ali Chishti, who gave a speech in 2009 titled, "Why I hate Jews and homosexuals". However, speaking at the event on Saturday, Mr Chishti explained that he had come to reject antisemtism.

Mr Chishti delivered his speech wearing a keffiyeh and, before the event, he was asked by a reporter whether he disliked supporters of Israel. He replied: "Yes, I dislike those who support an occupier that has been condemned in several UN resolutions."

Ervind Kohn, president of Oslo's Jewish community, dismissed the critics, calling the event "a unique occasion where the Muslim community rose up against antisemitism… So what if the entire Muslim community wasn't there?"

He added that there was no way of knowing how many Muslims were there. "How do you distinguish a Muslim from a non-Muslim? Should we have counted dark faces? That's racist!"

Mr Kohn called Mr Chishti as a "fantastic role model", saying: "In 2009, he was a self-declared antisemite. On Saturday, he stood on the podium and said he was wrong and that he was sorry… It's better to take small steps than to take no steps at all." Muslims are also planning to form "peace circles" around shuls in Stockholm and Malmö.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive