After Christchurch, we gathered a thousand Swedes in a symbolic human shield around the Stockholm mosque. Here’s how it happened.
During the Friday service on March 22nd, between 800 and 1 500 Stockholmers surrounded the mosque in a symbolic shield. The message to our city’s muslims was: You are not alone in your grief and worry after Christchurch. And your security is not your own sole concern — it’s our joint responsibility.
The manifestation was organized on Facebook by myself and my friend Samuel. We could not imagine that this many people would show up. Or the kind of love and gratitude we would receive from muslims across Sweden.
Text below can be freely shared, quoted and re-published. For pictures, see caption. The Facebook screenshots are all from posts on a public event.
Norwegian muslims started it — by shielding the Oslo synagogue in 2015
As a Jew, I know all too well what feelings of discomfort and fear that attacks like the one in Christchurch can bring about.
In 2015, a lone terrorist attacked the Copenhagen synagogue. Due to the synagogue’s shell protection, only a voluntary security guard was killed. But as a Bat Mitzvah party was being held inside, the result could otherwise well have been much worse. A scenario that ravaged my imagination.
On the upcoming Sabbath thereafter, Norwegian muslims formed a ring around the Oslo synagogue.
It was a gestured that touched me deeply.
I wanted to pay it back
As pictures from Christchurch rolled in the days after the attack, I felt I wanted to try to return some of the comfort I had felt by the Oslo manifestation in 2015.
Myself and Samuel, an old jewish friend who shares much of my background, agreed that the human ring would a suitable manifestation of inclusiveness and of protection. Of course, the security responsibility lies with the police and not us as individuals, but we believed the ring would symbolize our communal responsibility for the security our city’s muslims.
So we contacted the mosque to see if they would welcome the manifestation, which they said they would.
We then posted an event on Facebook on Tuesday, March 19th:
The event got likes, shares — and love
As we approached Friday, the event kept getting more and more likes and shares. On Thursday more 1 300 people had marked themselves as coming or interested.
But also, messages from muslims across Sweden came as comments and private messages.
The day came. And so did people.
On Friday we didn’t wether to expect 30 or 3 000 people. I hade asked some friends to come early to help form the ring, and we used kid’s street crayons to mark where we planned the ring to go.
Footage from the local newspaper Södermalmsnytt shows just how much people that actually showed up:
Even Sweden’s minister of culture and democracy, Amanda Lind, turned up:
The feedback went to our hearts
As the prayer visitors exited after the service, it felt like the waving and handshakes would never end.
And the media came as well
The evening before, I sent e-mails to the newsdesks of the main Swedish media outlets. And almost all of them came:
SR (National Public Radio): “ ‘Muslims’ safety is not their own concern’ “
SVT (National Public Broadcasting): “Human ring at Stockholm’s mosque”
Svenska Dagbladet: “Human wall to protect Friday Prayer”
Dagens Nyheter: “We shouldn’t have to be afraid”
Expressen: “Human ring protected mosque during Friday Prayer”
Aftonbladet: “The Stockholmers protect the mosque: ‘We stand united’”
So, in Scandinavia — literally across the globe from New Zeeland…
I’m sharing this because, in the midst of the feeling how the world is just going in the wrong direction, the last few days has been such an overwhelming experience.
I know it’s worn out words, but in this day and age, we’re all just connected.