By Yumna Sheikh
Rose memorial in Oslo took place on 25th of July where 200,000 people gathered in the city center. It was labeled as people’s march because it was arranged by ordinary citizens through Facebook, right after terror attacks in the capital which happened days prior. Labour Party’s building and several other buildings in the heart of Oslo were ruined, with 8 killed and several wounded. At least 70 people were massacred at the Youth Camp (in Utøya) by the right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.
This march was arranged to show love and solidarity, not just remembering the victims of the attacks. Speeches were held, peace songs were played, roses were raised in the air by the masses, and children were on fathers’ shoulders. This was not only a sea of rose, but also a sea of people from different ethnic backgrounds and religions.
Roses were left all over Oslo after the ceremony. At this point I would like to quote Stine Renate Håheim (survivor from Utøya) who said to CNN:
“If one man can show this much hate, think how much love we can show together”
When there was a talk of forced marriages in Norwegian-Pakistani society, I felt a tendency to feel more Pakistani in order break the stereotype of Pakistanis as “backward”. When the Twin Towers fell, I became “more” Muslim. When Benjamin Hermansen was killed by a Norwegian Nazi in my own town, I, as a brown-skinned person, found it difficult to walk around my neighborhood. When the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) were published, I felt harassed. At the same time I was also disappointed how the West could still walk proudly, despite its treatment of other people. This is ignorance.
Now, when the bomb exploded in the heart of Oslo, where I’ve been walking to school and work every day and have some of the greatest memories, I could not imagine tougher times than what I had already gone through.
Before the real culprit was confirmed, it felt like time had stopped. There was tension, fear and nervousness. Then the news came that the attacker was a white male instead of a Muslim or a Jihadist; but so came speculations like: is he a Muslim-convert? Quickly it turned from a “terrorist attack” to “a madman’s work”.
Today, I am not quite sure who I am. Perhaps I am all what is potentially dangerous. I am brown, I am Pakistani, I am Muslim, I am Norwegian, and beside all this I am quite a Noam Chomsky fan, therefore perhaps an anarchist as well. I am also a girl who likes to hang out with punks. However, the new Norwegian feeling of “we” is more or less breaking free from many stereotypes about Muslims and Islam as a religion, and hopefully it is going to continue. One hopes that the Eurabia theory will not take our attention away from the real challenges of our society.
Yumna Sheikh is a 20-year old freelance photographer and journalist, and studies media science and aesthetics at the University of Oslo. She was born in Oslo to Pakistani parents. She regularly blogs and her artistic work can be viewed here. Yumna also contributed a photo-essay called “Jihad – an inner journey” to Utilslørt – a book which contains a series of essays and photo-essays about experiences of Muslim women in Norway.