There were some reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, and prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom. Because ethnicity and religion were often inextricably linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents specifically as ethnic or religious intolerance.
Police issued a hate crimes report in December 2010, which indicated that approximately 11 percent of the 240 hate crimes registered in 2009 were religiously motivated. More recent hate crime statistics were not available. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and an opposition political leader called on the government to ensure that hate crimes are registered and publicized to the same extent as other crime statistics.
On July 22, rightwing extremist Anders Behring Breivik detonated a large improvised explosive device (IED) next to government buildings that housed many ministries and the prime minister’s office, killing eight persons and injuring scores. After detonating the IED, Breivik drove to a Labor Party youth camp on the island of Utoya outside of Oslo and shot and killed 69 persons (mostly youth) and injured many others. Shortly before the attack, Breivik posted a manifesto on the Internet in which he accused the Labor Party of treason for, among other things, encouraging Muslim immigration.
The Center Against Racism reported that, in the hours after the attack and before the perpetrator’s identity was established, some Muslims in Oslo reported being harassed, spat upon, yelled at, or chased. The government responded to the July 22 attacks by calling for “more democracy, more openness, and more humanity.” Commentators noted that, in the months following the attack, there was a greater feeling of inclusiveness towards all members of society.
On June 14-15, the Jewish community hosted a conference on anti-Semitism entitled, “Norway, Israel and the Jews: Myths and Realities.” The conference consisted of roundtable discussions with editors, journalists, politicians, religious and minority leaders, and academics, and included a debate on when anti-Israel comments cross the line to anti-Semitism. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported the conference, both financially and through active participation.
Earlier in June the Oslo municipality reported that one out of three Jewish students had been subjected to anti-Semitism in Oslo secondary schools (grades 8-10), while more than half of the students surveyed said they had heard the word “Jew” used as an insult at school. The Oslo study determined that the extent of bullying correlated with the quality of the individual teacher’s leadership and the learning environment. In response to the findings, the federal minister of education pledged six million kroner (approximately $1 million) to train teachers to combat anti-Semitism in schools nationwide and to include anti-Semitism as a stand-alone topic in national and local school curricula. In the fall, the Oslo municipality began including anti-Semitism in its school curriculum.
On October 31, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) invited Gilad Atzmon to lecture on, among other things, “his journey from hard core Zionism towards a humanist opposition to Zionism, racism and exclusiveness.” The official university newspaper Universitetsavisa published an article entitled “Jewish Identity is the Problem” about one of Atzmon’s NTNU lectures. The article lacked countervailing facts to challenge the anti-Semitic view that Jewish identity and Israel are to blame for inter-religious or political tensions in the Middle East.
In an April 20 op-ed in the country’s leading newspaper, prominent Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder apologized for his controversial 2006 article entitled “God’s Chosen People.” He acknowledged the article could have been interpreted as anti-Semitic, although that had not been his intention. In his apology, Gaarder emphasized that “We must never express ourselves so that legitimate criticism of the government of Israel’s policies can in any way be confused with an illegitimate and in every way intolerable hatred of Jews or Judaism.” Before publishing the April piece, Gaarder engaged in a dialogue with Jewish community leaders, who said they welcomed his initiative and apology.
There were some reports of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in mainstream newspapers, both in a feature article and in letters to the editor, either suggesting (the article) or alleging outright (the letters) that Jews control the U.S. government. An article in the daily newspaper Aftenposten was titled “Rich Jews Threaten Obama.” Aftenposten, which frequently publishes articles in support of the Jewish community, quickly changed the title after a broad outcry. The paper also published an op-ed response from the U.S. ambassador.
KRIPOS (the national police unit for combating organized and other serious crime) maintained a Web page for the public to contact police regarding online hate speech.
Some commentators expressed concern that extremist views were increasing among a few second-generation Muslims.
The country has several civil organizations designed to combat anti-Semitism, including the Norwegian Center Against Racism and the Norwegian Association Against Anti-Semitism. The former organization receives financial support from the government.
The Council for Religious and Life Stance Communities includes the state church and 12 other religious and humanistic communities, among them the Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities. The council seeks to prevent differences in belief from being used as a basis for prejudice and xenophobia and has received government support for its work since 1998. The council, acting as an umbrella organization, organized many events that furthered interreligious dialogue and debate.
The Oslo Coalition for Freedom of Religious Beliefs facilitated closer coordination and international cooperation on religious freedom problems both domestically and outside the country. The coalition continued to research new directions in Islamic thought and practice; how to facilitate freedom of religion, missionary activities, and human rights; and how to teach tolerance and religious freedom.