Members of a Norwegian anti-immigrant Facebook group were embarrassed last week after a journalist tricked them into denouncing a photo of empty bus seats.
Journalist Johan Slattavik told the Washington Post he had found an image of empty bus seats that appeared, at first glance, like women wearing burqas. As “a little practical joke,” he decided to share the image to Facebook group “Fedrelandet viktigst,” or “Fatherland First,” along with the caption, “What do people think of this?” Members of the group had a lot to say, as the post swiftly received more than 100 comments — most of them anti-Muslim.
“It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons,” wrote one user, according to a translation from The Local.
“Get them out of our country,” wrote another. Other users piled on with comments describing the image as “frightening” and “tragic.”
“I ended up having a good laugh,” Slattavik said, adding that he was surprised that so many were fooled by the image. “I have thought about the differences between legitimate criticism of immigration to Europe and blind racism and xenophobia. I wanted to look into these differences: something I think I have achieved by setting up this practical joke and watching the reactions.”
Screenshots of the post and the surrounding comments went viral in Norway, as users expressed shock at the anger and “hate” expressed by the Fatherland First commenters.
“People see what they want to see and what they want to see are dangerous Muslims,” noted Rune Berglund Steen, head of the Norwegian Center Against Racism. “In a way it’s an interesting test of how quickly people can find confirmations of their own delusions.”
Norway is one of a number of countries in Europe that has proposed laws that restrict the wearing of burqas and niqabs in all educational institutions — including kindergartens, schools, and universities. If the new legislation is accepted, Norway will be the first country to apply the veil ban to both children and adults.
Read the full story at the Washington Post.