What is happening in Norway and Sweden and why are people linking it to Bengaluru and Delhi riots?

Anwesha MitraUpdated: Monday, August 31, 2020, 10:34 PM IST
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Smoke billows from burning tyres and pallets and fireworks as a few hundred protesters riot in the Rosengard neighbourhood of Malmo, Sweden, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. | Photo: PTI

If you're active on social media platforms, you might have come across posts about violent clashes in Sweden and Norway recently. Two incidents that took place in quick succession has let to an outpouring of comments, criticism and even fake news among many social media users in India.

And for some time, on Saturday and Sunday, it was the top trend on Twitter in India, even as it did not manage to occupy the same space in Sweden and Norway itself.

But what exactly is happening?

On Saturday, around 300 people had gathered in the in the Swedish city of Malmo on Saturday to protest the burning of a copy of the Quran a day earlier. The incident that had taken place near a predominantly migrant neighbourhood was reportedly carried out by a far-right Danish party called Stram Kurs and filmed and posted online. Hours earlier, the group's leader had been denied permission to hold a meeting in Malmo about “Islamization in the Nordic countries”.

Less than a day later, neighbouring Norway saw protests with a similar theme. This was a clash between protesters and counter-protesters in the country's capital, Oslo. As per a report by Deutsche Welle or DW, clashes broke out at the rally organised by the Stop Islamization of Norway (SIAN) group near the Parliament. Counter-protesters then arrived, banging drums and chanting that they did not want 'racist" people around. Matters took a violent turn after one woman reportedly tore pages off the Quran and spat on it.

Why is Indian Twitter talking about this? What is the connection with the Delhi and Bengaluru riots?

Many Twitter users have taken it upon themselves to compare the two incidents to the Delhi and Bengaluru riots from earlier this year. This has been echoed by many well known individuals with verified accounts and thousands of followers.

They allege that the two protests had the "same pattern" as their international counterparts, and in the process, some have even shared fake news to make their point.

"Same pattern was seen in #DelhiRiots #bangaloreriots. They first offend you and when you retort they get super offended burn down and kill everyone who hasn’t offended anyone," opined actor Kangana Ranaut.

"Big lesson for Indians who are against the CAA/NRC and want India to open their borders for all immigrants. Think again and react wisely," tweeted BJP leader Gaurav Goel.

"First they burnt Delhi and Bengaluru. Then Sweden and now Norway. Which city/country next??" tweeted army veteran and BJP leader Major Surendra Poonia.

Soon after, both Kangana and Gaurav seemed to fall prey to fake news. While the actor shared a post containing a fake image stating that the situation in Sweden was "extremely sad", the BJP leader went a step further sharing the fake photos in question on his verified Twitter handle.

Despite many people fact-checking him in the comments section, the post remains on his profile.

"Tolerance of Sweden has paved a way for them to be killed. Sweden allowed Jihadis to come and now the citizens of Sweden are brutally killed or injured, that is not an accident...It is a choice they have made," he alleged.

The picture shared by both shows the faces of several women who have purportedly been injured in the Sweden riots. And while it is not clear where exactly all these pictures are from, they are certainly not from the recent Sweden clashes. We can say this with certainty simply because the photos have existed for much longer than the two-day-old clashes. And they have previously been attributed to many other incidents of violence, including a 2018 article by The Observers on how fake images were being used to "spread racist stereotypes about migrants".

But while many connect the two riots citing their link to the Muslim community, it must be noted that the riots are not identical. Nor did they begin in the same way. Additionally, these are not the only riots that have taken place over the last few months across the world.

As this author noted in an earlier article, the Delhi riots came amid protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the associated possibility of a NRC and NPR, while the Bengaluru riots appear to have stemmed from an derogatory post against Prophet Muhammad. The police have also said that while this post had been the catalyst, a political turf war of sorts might have had a lot to do with the same.

In contrast, the Sweden riots have their roots in the attempts of an extremist group to hold a public meeting that was denied permission by the police while the Norway riots saw protesters and counter-protesters take each other on over the desecration of a copy of the Quran and was soon broken up by the police.

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