by Aysha Qamar
“It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons,” comments on a picture posted on a private Norwegian anti-immigrant Facebook page read.
The picture posted, with the comment ‘“What do people think of this?,” in the Facebook group ‘Fedrelandet viktigst’ translating to ‘Fatherland first’, sparked a debate amongst group members after some mistook six empty bus seats for six women wearing burqas.
The group consisting of over 13,000 members has thus been widely mocked.
Johan Slattavik, the user who posted the photograph, claims he posted the image as “a little practical joke,” to see how people would react to a picture of an empty bus.
“I laid out the photo to see what happened,” Slattavik told WorldViews. “I ended up having a good laugh.”
The picture quickly caught attention with a variety of comments, media agencies reported.
“Ghastly. This should never happen”
“Islam is and always will be a curse”
“Get them out of our country – frightening times we are living in”
“I thought it would be like this in the year 2050, but it is happening NOW.”
“It’s just an empty bus”
“Imagine that empty buses can create so many hate comments”
Sindre Beyer, a former Norwegian politician, said he joined the group out of curiosity.
Beyer shared the original post and published 23 pages of the group’s comments.
“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 that has gone viral.
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 ?😳
Beyer said, he shared the image to expose prejudice within the far-right group and was shocked to see so much hatred against bus seats.
“After following the group for a while I felt the need to find the best possible post to share with the public,” Beyer told CBS News. “When I came across this post I found it tragicomic and with a obvious symbolic value. It frightens me if such groups grow without being contradicted.”
Rune Berglund Steen, head of Norway’s Antiracist Centre, told reporters that people “see what they want to see – and what these people want to see are dangerous Muslims.”
Norway recently became the latest European country to propose restrictions on the wearing of burqas and niqabs in public places. Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the German State of Bavaria and the Netherlands all restrict full-face veils in some public places. This summer, Norway’s government announced a plan to ban burqas in kindergartens, schools and universities.
During a press conference in June, then acting immigration and integration minister, Per Sanderberg said that face-covering garments such as the niqab or burqa “do not belong in Norwegian schools.”