OSLO – Marking six months on Oslo mass killing of scores of people by a Christian fanatic, far-right groups and parties are reigniting fierce debates on the Muslim immigration into Norway to regain its popularity lost after July’s attacks.
"We need sometimes to tolerate that different people have different feelings that we don't like that we don't approve of," Siv Jensen, the leader of Progress Party, told BBC on Sunday, January 22.
Depending on an anti-immigration ticket in past campaigns, the party rhetoric was damaged by Oslo attacks, seeing its support fall to 11.4% in local elections last September from 17.5% in 2007.
Currently, it is fighting to bring back the debate about immigration into parliament, calling for tolerating anti-Muslim comments on websites.
"We need to tolerate that people have different views," she answers.
"I think through debate that is the best way of fighting horrible meanings and thoughts," she says.
Last July 2011, Norwegian anti-Muslim extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed at least 76 people in twin attacks on a government building and a youth training camp in Oslo last year.
Described by the police as a "right-wing Christian fundamentalist", the attacker said that his assault was a self-styled mission to save European “Christendom” from Islam.
He said that his actions aimed to "change Norwegian society" against a "Muslim invasion" of Europe.
This rhetoric was returning to internet forums and facebook groups.
"When it comes to Islam, there is a long history of such [terrorist] attacks,” Christen Krogvig, a far-right activist who spends much of his time on an internet forum called Stop the Islamization of Norway, said.
“And we think that the probability that Muslims will continue [to be the main perpetrators] is very high given that the Koran tells [Muslims] to do so."
In the city of Oslo, divided by River Aker into multicultural east and white Norwegians west, dialogue was a must.
"I think it was like we woke up after this happened on 22 July. We have to get this through dialogue," Sandre Abel, a teacher in the multicultural east, told BBC.
In Abel’s class in the secondary school, the immigration debate is already up and running.
He usually leads his pupils in a discussion about the benefits and down sides of a multiethnic society.
“We don't want to stop talking about things, because nobody anticipated this,” he said.
“And the people affected were not just white Norwegians but all kinds of skin colors.”
For many of the second and third generation immigrants, Breivik’s attack was merely a reflection of the growing anti-Muslim sentiments in the country.
"Prejudice dates back about 30 years," says Nafisa Jafni, whose parents immigrated from Pakistan before she was born.
"Back then it was only Pakistanis. Then it was Indians who came and Sri Lankans and now we have Somalis," she smiles.
When Norway opened its doors to immigrants some four decades ago, Oslo began to change dramatically.
Today, 30% of the city's population is made up of first- or second-generation immigrants.
The number of immigrants, who make up nearly 11 percent of Norway’s 4.9 million population, nearly tripled between 1995 and 2010.
The Muslim community in Norway is estimated at 150,000. The majority of Muslims are of Pakistan, Somali, Iraqi and Moroccan backgrounds.
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