A Facebook group for a Norweigan anti-immigrant group was widely ridiculed after members confused six empty bus seats for a group of women wearing burqas in Oslo, but one man said it was all just a social experiment.
Johan Slåttavik posted the photo of the empty bus seats to the Facebook group Fedrelandet viktisgst, which roughly translates to “Fatherland First,” posing the question, “What do we think of this?”
Slåttavik told Norwegian news website Nettavisen he posted the photo last week “for a joke” because he was “interested to see how people’s perceptions of an image are influenced by how others around them react. I ended up having a good laugh.”
Members of the 13,000-member nationalist Fatherland First group for people “who love Norway and appreciate what our ancestors fought for,” responded as could be expected, calling the photograph of what they thought were burqa-clad women proof of the “Islamafication of Norway,” local English-language newspaper The Local reported.
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Words like “frightening,” “terrifying” and “disgusting” were used to describe the photo. Some commenters worried the imagined passengers carried “weapons or bombs” under their burqas.
According to translations by The Local, other comments read, “It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons,” “Get them out of our country,” and “Frightening times we are living in.”
The post went viral after Facebook user Sindre Beyer, a former Labor Party Member of Parliament, shared screenshots of 23 pages of the group’s comments in a post shared more than 1,800 times.
“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.
Beyer has reportedly been following the Fatherland First group online for some time and said he has been shocked by the hate and fake news spread there.
The hatred that was displayed toward some empty bus seats really shows how much prejudices trump wisdom,” he said.
“That’s why I shared the post so that more people can see what is happening in the dark corners of the web,” he added.