Hege Storhaug wanted pictures of Norwegian Muslims. Here is Universitas’s response.
You’re welcome, Hege Storhaug.
Hege Storhaug is a popular right-wing Norwegian cultural critic. Much of her career has been based on critiquing immigration and Islam. She is also the information director of Human Rights Service (HRS), which aims to research integration and immigration. HRS has also been criticized however, and Storhaug’s latest project makes it clear why.
Photo essay: You’re welcome, Hege Storhaug
HRS wants to «use visual resources to show our readers what’s happening in our beloved Norway.» The organization says Islam’s influence in Norway is growing quickly, especially in Oslo, and invites readers to send in evidence.
This isn’t a photo project, this is fear propaganda.
As an answer, Universitas photographed five Muslim students. Instead of doing it without permission, we got to know them. They believe the HRS project will contribute to fear, polarization, and increased recruitment to radical groups.
As Memoona Saleem told us, «People might be scared and too afraid to get to know Muslims or other people of a different ethnic or religious background than themselves. We might end up with a society where all ethnic or religious groups just keeps to themselves; unwilling to get to know with others.»
Using pictures to create fear and hate is nothing new. HRS is not the first to use stigmatizing propaganda; history shows us how dangerous this kind of thinking can be. The Muslims being photographed are perfectly normal Norwegians on their way to a mosque each Friday, just like other Norwegians go to church on Sunday. Yet those images are used to support conspiracy theories about Muslims wanting to take over Norway.
Hege Storhaug compares the HRS project to street photography like Humans of New York, «just regular people documenting everyday life.» It’s hair raising to compare stigmatizing Muslims with photo journalism. Documentary photography is about getting close to your subject to better understand them. HRS isn’t telling people to meet or get to know the Muslims they take pictures of. HRS is creating hate, not understanding.