Culture

Do You See Burqas or Bus Seats in This Picture?

A picture of seats on an empty bus has caused quite a stir after it was posted in a Norwegian nationalist Facebook group. Members of the group responded in anger at the photo, in which many saw Muslim women dressed in burqas.

“Ghastly. This should never happen,” one comment on the photo read, according to screenshots on the Norwegian news website Nettavisen. “Islam is and always will be a curse,” read another comment. “Get them out of our country — frightening times we are living in,” ran one message. “I thought it would be like this in the year 2050, but it is happening NOW.”

Many members wrote of the picture that it was “tragic,” “terrifying,” and “disgusting.” One member wrote, “This looks really scary. Should be banned. You can’t tell who’s underneath. Could be terrorists.”

The photo was posted in the closed group Fedrelandet viktigst, which means “Fatherland first,” a 13,000-member group for people “who love Norway and appreciate what our ancestors fought for.”

Johan Slåttavik, the man who posted the photo in the group, said he found it on the Internet and posted it “for a joke” last week. Slåttavik has described himself as “Norway’s worst web troll and proud of it,” according to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper. When he posted the photo, he included a question: “What do people think of this?”

Slåttavik told Nettavisen and Norway’s TV 2 he wanted to “highlight the difference between legitimate criticism of immigration and blind racism.” He explained that he was “interested to see how people’s perceptions of an image are influenced by how others around them react. I ended up having a good laugh.”

The photo went viral in Norway when Sindre Beyer, a former Labour party member of parliament who said he has been following the Facebook group for some time, published 23 pages of screenshots of the group’s outraged comments.

Hva skjer når det legges ut et bilde av noen tomme busseter på en brungrumsete gruppe på Facebook og nesten alle tror de ser en gjeng med burka ?😳

Posted by Sindre Beyer on Friday, July 28, 2017

“What happens when a photo of some empty bus seats is posted to a disgusting Facebook group, and nearly everyone thinks they see a bunch of burqas?” he asked in a post shared more than 1,800 times.

Despite the widespread reaction to what looked to many in the group like women in burqas, a few commenters noticed that the image only showed empty bus seats. Some even warned that the group was making itself look ridiculous.

While European countries do struggle with a vast influx of Muslim immigrants, bringing cultural clashes that could well be defined with the term “Islamification,” the photo did not show this phenomenon, and so the angry reactions merely undercut the legitimate arguments against immigration. The power of suggestion, and a well-placed troll photo, had undercut the legitimate concerns of Norwegian nationalists.

“I’m shocked at how much hate and fake news is spread [ on the Fedrelandet viktigst page],” Beyer said. “So much hatred against empty bus seats certainly shows that prejudice wins out over wisdom.”

Rune Berglund Steen, head of Norway’s Antiracist Center, told Nettavisen that people “see what they want to see — and what these people want to see are dangerous Muslims.”

A few mistaken people on a Facebook group do not undercut the arguments against unfettered immigration from the Middle East, however. Signs of an unwelcome rejection of European heritage — in Norway and throughout the continent — abound.

A recent celebration of Norwegian Christianity featured a Muslim imam, whom the moderator compared to Martin Luther. PJ Media’s Bruce Bawer reported his experience with a Norwegian woman who had taken Turkish lovers, whom she had to yell at over the phone to stop physically abusing a friend of hers.

Swedish authorities routinely ignore charges of rape, in order to protect Muslim immigrants accused of such crimes. In Germany, a judge acquitted a Turkish man of rape, because his forced violent sex was not “culturally” considered rape.

The Guardian noted that Norway recently became the latest European country to propose restrictions on the wearing of burqas and niqabs, following France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, and the German state of Bavaria. It seems tragic that European countries can only attempt surface restrictions, rather than a full response to the struggles in their countries.

Per Sandberg, Norway’s then-acting immigration and integration minister, said in June that face-covering garments “do not belong in Norwegian schools. The ability to communicate is a basic value.”

Last month, a Christian woman in Sweden was turned away from a garment shop run by Somali immigrants for not wearing a burqa. In an illustration of the difference between Western culture and Islamist countries, Saudis have called for the arrest of a woman — for wearing a miniskirt and a crop top in public.

Liberals may attack this “anti-immigrant” sentiment all they want, but the culture clash between government-imposed sharia (Islamic law) and Western freedoms is real, and it is coming to Europe with a vengeance.