Norway's Muslims form protective human ring around synagogue

OSLO (REUTERS) - More than 1,000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo's synagogue on Saturday, offering symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighbouring Denmark last weekend.

Chanting "No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia," Norway's Muslims formed what they called a ring of peace a week after Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein, a Danish-born son of Palestinian immigrants, killed two people at a synagogue and an event promoting free speech in Copenhagen last weekend.

"Humanity is one and we are here to demonstrate that," Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the protest's organisers told a crowd of Muslim immigrants and ethnic Norwegians who filled the small street around Oslo's only functioning synagogue.

"There are many more peace mongers than warmongers," Abdullah said as organisers and Jewish community leaders stood side by side.

"There's still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds."

Norway's Jewish community is one of Europe's smallest, numbering around 1,000, and the Muslim population, which has been growing steadily through immigration, is 150,000 to 200,000. Norway has a population of about 5.2 million.

The debate over immigration in the country came to the forefront in 2011 when Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people and accused the government and the then-ruling Labour party of facilitating Muslim immigration and adulterating pure Norwegian blood.

Support for immigration has been rising steadily since those attacks, however, and an opinion poll late last year found that 77 per cent of people thought immigrants made an important contribution to Norwegian society.