While recruitment to anti-Muslim groups like Stop The Islamization of Norway ( Stopp islamiseringen av Norge – SIAN) appears to have plateaued over the past four to five years, Oslo Police say that “xenophobic groups are springing up like mushrooms online”.
There are an estimated 100 Norwegian anti-Islam groups on Facebook with up to 25,000 members and Norway has also recently seen chapters of the Soldiers of Odin pop up in cities nationwide.
See also: Soldiers of Odin expand Norway patrols
Oslo Police Lieutenant Vegar Martinsen told Dagsavisen that these types of groups are cause for major concern.
“I am more afraid that groups like Soldiers of Odin will provoke violent conflict than I am that Islamist militants will provoke violent conflicts in Oslo’s streets,” Martinsen said.
He stressed, however, that he was only referring to the threat of conflicts between rival groups rather than any potential terrorist attacks.
Øyvind Strømmen, a journalist who has written extensively on right-wing extremism, told Dagsavisen that he shares Martinsen’s concerns.
“Just going around in motorcycle gang style uniforms with dogs and cameras in the so-called problem areas can provoke confrontations,” he said, adding that the media attention given to Soldiers of Odin is likely boosting its membership numbers.
The Norwegian leader of the Soldiers of Odin, Steffen Larsen, insisted that the group is neither racist nor out to provoke violent clashes.
“The point is to make the places we patrol safer. The police would know that if they bothered to speak with me,” Larsen said.
He told Dagsavisen that he has tried to contact several police leaders but no one was interested in speaking with him.
In its annual risk assessment released earlier this year, the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) wrote that both extreme Islamism and the rise of far-right groups present significant security threats to Norway.