Bus seats mistaken for burkas by Norwegian far-right activists

‘Fatherland first’ Facebook posts call empty Oslo bus seats ‘terrifying’

A Norwegian anti-immigrant group has been roundly ridiculed after members mistook a photograph of six empty Oslo bus seats posted on its Facebook page for a group of women wearing burkas.

"Tragic" and "terrifying" were among the comments posted by members of the closed Fedrelandet viktigst, or "Fatherland first", group beneath the photograph, according to screenshots on the Norwegian news website Nettavisen.

Other members of the 13,000-strong group wondered whether the nonexistent passengers might be carrying bombs or weapons beneath their clothes. “This looks really scary,” wrote one. “Should be banned. You can’t tell who’s underneath. Could be terrorists.”

Further comments read: "Ghastly. This should never happen," "Get them out of our country – frightening times we are living in," and "I thought it would be like this in the year 2050, but it is happening now," according to thelocal.no.


The photograph was posted “for a joke” by the journalist Johan Slåttavik, who told Nettavisen he was “interested to see how people’s perceptions of an impression are influenced by how others around them react. I ended up having a good laugh.”

It went viral in Norway after others shared screenshots of the group's reactions. Sindre Beyer, whose post was shared more than 1,500 times, asked: "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 burkas?"

I'm shocked at how much hate and fake news is spread. So much hatred against empty bus seats certainly shows that prejudice wins out over wisdom

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

The head of Norway’s Antiracist Centre, Rune Berglund Steen, told the site that people plainly “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 burkas and niqabs, tabling a law that will bar them from kindergartens, schools and universities. France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria all restrict full-face veils in public places.

Norway’s minority government, a coalition of the centre-right Conservatives and the populist Progress party which faces elections next month, said in June it was confident it would find opposition support for the move.

"We have every reason to believe this will be approved by parliament," said the education minister, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen. The immigration and integration minister, Per Sandberg, said face-covering garments such as the niqab or burka "do not belong in Norwegian schools. The ability to communicate is a basic value."

© Guardian