The democracy festival in Arendal will once again be this year’s largest venue for those with an interest in politics and society. The Nordic Council of Ministers is on hand to discuss Nordic challenges and solutions for how we will create the world’s most sustainable and integrated region. MEET members will be speaking on the 16th.
The burning of the Quran in Kristiansand in 2019 by members of the Stop the Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) group brought into sharp relief the challenge of ensuring religious freedoms whilst at the same time protecting freedom of speech.
For Muslims, the burning of their holy book represented a blatant violation of their religious values. Equally worrying, the act fuelled tensions between Muslims and wider society and led to some incidents of violence. On the other hand, it has been argued that in a secular liberal country like Norway, people have the right to express their views – no matter how abhorrent they might be to some members of society.
Islamophobia is a term used to describe irrational hostility, fear or hatred of Islam, Muslims and Muslim culture, and the discrimination that Muslims can face, both individually and collectively. Examples include verbal abuse, online hate speech, physical violence and damage to mosques/properties owned by Muslims.
Islamophobia has been on the rise in Europe for many years. It has profound negative effects, not just on those directly targeted, but on members of the entire community. As well as living in fear, people can feel it necessary to ‘self-censor’ – to abstain from religious practices (e.g. going to the mosque, wearing hijab), to not express their views openly, and to not participate fully in society (e.g. standing for public office) because this could invite abuse.