Police say about 40 far-right radicals have held a peaceful rally to protest what they call the “Islamization of Norway and Europe”.
The demonstration in the southwestern city of Stavanger was held Saturday by the Norwegian Defence League, an anti-Islam organization closely associated with the English Defence League.
Saturday’s demonstration opposed a recent parliamentary decision to amend the country’s constitution to separate the state from the church. That means Norway no longer has a state religion and that all religions will be treated equally.
Police spokesman Henning Andersen says there were no arrests during the two-hour rally but that some counter protesters were fined for disobeying officers’ orders to leave the area.
According to the NDL the purpose of the demonstration was “to protest against the norwegian government changing the constitution to make Islam equal to christianity in Norway and to protest against islamization of Norway and Europe”.
The event was given a boost by sympathetic press coverage. Aftenbladet carried a very soft interview with the NDL’s new leaderRune Hauge (Leo Baardsen), who explained that he had organised the demonstration because “I want my descendants to grow up where we still have a democracy, with freedom of expression, and can escape being forcibly converted to Islam to avoid being persecuted – and ultimately killed – due to the fact that Muslims have become a majority”. (Muslims currently make up 2.1% of the population of Norway.) And the Stavanger newpaper Rogalands Avis provided a platform for a spokesperson from Stop Islamisation of Norway, which jointly sponsored the protest, to claim that they were expecting as many as 600 people to attend, including supporters from Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
However, a report by NRK estimates that as few as 20-30 people turned out. By contrast, between 800 and 1,000 counter-protestors including local Socialist Left Party politician Hallgeir Langeland joined a Festival Against Racism in the town square, while another smaller counter-demonstration organised by New SOS Racism was held at the same location as the NDL rally.