Raseborg: To headscarf or not?

by , under All categories, Enrique

I was very surprised to read that the educational board of  Raseborg, a town located in southwest Finland, had retracted apparently grudgingly from a decision to ban Muslims from wearing headscarves at school. The Raseborg school district is the only one in the country that had in force such restrictions.

Here is an update on the matter in Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish), which shows that the attitude in Finland towards wearing headscarves at educational institutions and at work is quite flexible. Raseborg’s decision to ban headscarves at schools has not been followed anywhere else in the country.

Even though such a ban was done in the name of furthering equality, did it or was it a bad case of ethnocentric policing? If you want to promote equality and our way of life, do you do it by prohibiting certain cultural practices of other groups? By banning headscarves, did Raseborg send a message to the children that they should be ashamed of their culture?

Headscarves, as well as all other religious symbols, were banned from French schools in 2004. Source: France 24

While I am all for equality and the social welfare-state model, there are certain limits to what the state can impose on us.  One of the roles of society is to offer opportunities to all of its members, even in the area of cultural diversity. Therefore it is our right to decide which one of these is suitable as long as no laws are breached.

If the educational board of Raseborg is truly interested in advancing the noble cause of  social equality as we define it in our culture, its energies would be better spent if it promoted and defended our inalienable right to cultural diversity and to free choice.

Living in a society that abides by the spirit of our constitution and laws means that we also share public spaces with other cultures.

Children who grow up in two cultures have enough adaption challenges they have to deal with. If we are as a society truly interested in their welfare and rights, one of the first matters that our educational system must teach them is that there are many lifestyles in our society.

    • Enrique

      Hannu, what may be “proper” for you may be “improper” for others.

  1. Hannu

    So you mean that if someone in somewhere thinks Finnish way isn’t proper then Finnish school shouldn’t demand it from students?

    • Enrique

      –So you mean that if someone in somewhere thinks Finnish way isn’t proper then Finnish school shouldn’t demand it from students?

      In the first place is it the Finnish way? I don’t think that if a person wants to wear a headscarf that should be seen as something anti-Finnish. You think the state has the right to tell you how you dress? Hmmmm. When I used to go to high school in the United States a long time ago, girls weren’t allowed to wear pants. Is that the “American way?” No. It is the sexist way. I have a difficult time believing that the aim of the school board was to further equality. I think that was the LAST thing that the school board had in mind. That was only a red herring.

  2. Hannu

    As long as i or anyone i asked remembers there has been rule “no hats in classroom”, if that doesn’t make it Finnish way then what does?
    And of course you think it was last thing… If they allow hat to one they have to allow it to others too, nothing else and that was ok for other islamic immigrants too. “Asian lautakunnalle valmistelleen maahanmuuttajasihteeri Börje Mattssonin mukaan käytäntö ei ole tähän mennessä aiheuttanut suurempia ongelmia, vaan myös tytöt joilla islamilaisen perinteen mukaan on ollut pään peittävä huivi, ovat sääntöjen selostamisen jälkeen ottaneet sen pois oppituntien ajaksi. Huoltajat ovat tämän hyväksyneet.”

    Btw headscarf is sexist way.

    • Enrique

      –As long as i or anyone i asked remembers there has been rule “no hats in classroom”, if that doesn’t make it Finnish way then what does?

      Come to eastern Finland. There are girls in elementary school use headscarves. It is a bit like what dress is ok in a night club. If you were the Finnish national dress it is not problem but if you are dressed like a Roma it is a different story. Hannu, this is an idiotic discussion. The state, never mind an educational board of a small Finnish town, does not have the right to tell how people should dress especially if it has to do with their culture.

      Explain to us why you feel so threatened by school children wearing a headscarf? What is threatened?

  3. Hannu

    “Come to eastern Finland. There are girls in elementary school use headscarves. ”

    Do they let non parents to attend in classes? Never heard that kind of possibility.
    And i don’t believe they let childs wear hats in classes.

    “The state, never mind an educational board of a small Finnish town, does not have the right to tell how people should dress especially if it has to do with their culture.”

    One religious freak does not have the right dictate how people dress in Finnish schools and spit on Finnish culture.

    “Explain to us why you feel so threatened by school children wearing a headscarf? What is threatened?”

    Equality and/or good manners, if those poor girls alone have permit to keep hat thats not equal and if others get permit too they learn that hat in head inside is ok what it isn’t.

    • Enrique

      –One religious freak does not have the right dictate how people dress in Finnish schools and spit on Finnish culture.

      I asked you this question before: “What is the spirit of Finnish culture?” A religious “freak?”

      –Equality and/or good manners, if those poor girls alone have permit to keep hat thats not equal and if others get permit too they learn that hat in head inside is ok what it isn’t.

      Really? Good manners? In first place, they are not wearing a “hat” but a “headscarf.” Two different things. Equality? Nah. That is the last thing you are interested in. You just feel threatned by sharing public spaces with other cultures. That is the real issue at hand. The equality stuff excuse you mention is nothing more than a red herring.

      Your definition of equality (I use our constitution and equality act as a benchmark) is very different from the law. In your book, there is very little space for difference in our society. This means that equality and all the good laws that reinforce the latter are effecitvely applied to those in your culture. There are unwritten abritrary laws that guide your behavior and attitude towards other groups that are different. It’s spooky taking into account how few Muslims there are in this country and already you thinking about banning headscarves and building mosques. That kind of attitude from groups like the True Finns scares me many times more than school children wearing headscarves.

      If you live in Tampere, there was in 1997 a sign (like in the US in the 1950s) that the restaurant establishment did not serve Roma customers. Accepting other people who are different is where Finland has a lot of work do to still. But it is improving in leaps and strides. That is why the school board failed in Raasepori to ban headscarves.

  4. Hannu

    “they are not wearing a “hat” but a “headscarf.” Two different things.”

    My translation choice for “päähine” was wrong, better is head-dress i think. Do you now understand what i am talking?
    You simply don’t use any kind of head-dress in classroom or dining room and that was explained to muslim immigrants and they were ok with it except that one man.

    Fast googling about school rules.

    “… Päällysvaatteet, kengät ja päähineet on riisuttu valmiiksi ennen luokkaan siirtymistä”

    “Päähineet ja päällysvaatteet. Takit ja hatut jätetään luokissa oleviin naulakkoihin. Sisätiloissa ei olla päähine päässä eikä ruokalassa takki päällä.”

    “ulkovaatteet ja päähineet jätetään luokan ulkopuolelle naulakkoon.”

    “Päällysvaatteet ja päähineet riisutaan luokkaan tultaessa”

    “Päähinettä ei käytetä luokassa oppituntien aikana eikä ruokalassa.”

    “Miehet eivätkä pojat käytä päähinettä opetustiloissa.” well first where it applies only to boys and mans.

    “Hyvien käytöstapojen mukaisesti koulun sisätiloissa ei olla lakki päässä. Päällysvaatteet jätetään ruokailun ajaksi naulakkoon. Oppituntien ajaksi päällysvaatteet voi tuoda luokkaan.”

    “Hyvien tapojen mukaisesti päähineet riisutaan sisätiloissa”

    “Ulkovaatteet, kengät ja päähineet jätetään naulakkoon oppituntien ajaksi.”

    My wild guess is that most of those schools don’t have any muslims and still they have already planned oppressing and racists rules…

  5. Jonas G

    A quick visit from the language police:

    Raasepori should be called Raseborg in English (and other non-Finnic languages)!
    The rule is as here:
    http://www.kotus.fi/index.phtml?l=sv&s=2109

    End of visit by the police. Sorry for the interruption.

    The Swedish-language media has reported that it was not a policy of Raseborg as a whole to forbid headscarfs but a decision made by this particular Finnish-speaking school’s headteacher/principal to ban all overt symbols of religion. Raseborg did not have a blanket ban on headscarves or any municipality-wide policy, as far as I understand it… well, not until now.

    • Enrique

      Hi Jonas, thank you for dropping by and the document you shared. If we are allowed to practice our culture (see articles 6, 11 and 17 of the Finnish constitution). In my opinion if we live in country that defends human rights as well (UN Declaration of Human Rights), should not go around policing other culturally. One of the most important rights granted to people in our society is the right to choice. It was a good matter that you corrected me on the name of Raseborg. We must remember that Finland is officially a bilingual country.

  6. Tiwaz

    Then tell me, Enrique, if right to upheld ones own culture is so important…

    Why you always are so eager to deny Finns, the natives, this right?

    Finns must understand, Finns must adapt, Finns must be flexible.

    That is your message all over in this blog, that everyone but Finns have right to hold on to our culture.

    Our culture says that head is bare in classroom, it has always been so. Thus, by your account, we have every right to enforce our own culture in our own native land.

    One should notice that Finlands islamic Tatar minority has never had an issue with this.

    • Enrique

      –That is your message all over in this blog, that everyone but Finns have right to hold on to our culture.

      Wrong. In creating good ethnic relations both sides have to step back and let cultures by cultural bygones. We live and share a common home: Finland.

  7. OnTheRoadToSuccess

    I’ve been consistently embarrassed by the arguments put forward by Tiwaz and Hannu on this empowering blog. They have repeatedly left me dumbfounded by their divisive and misleading contributions.

    “Our culture says that head is bare in classroom, it has always been so. Thus, by your account, we have every right to enforce our own culture in our own native land.”

    It is important to note that there’s a hugh difference between “culture” and “Rules/Regulations/Laws”.

    The rules/regulations/laws of the educational board of Raseborg – prohibiting the wearing of headscarfs – go a long way to violate the Constitutional rights of a people.

    Which is more important – an unnecessary rule/regulation or the religion/culture of an oppressed people? Tiwaz and Hannu – you don’t have to answer this question because we all know where you stand.

    I’m yet to understand what Hannu means by “proper manners” and incidentally, the distinction between a hat and headscarf is crystal clear.

  8. EvilFinn

    I work mostly with young people (around 14-20 years old) and my work is very diverse. Teaching is part of my job.

    If I’m teaching in front of a class, I want to see the faces of the people I’m teaching. That’s just for identifying the people and has nothing to do with “Finnish culture” or something like that. I really wouldn’t mind if someone wore a headscarf (which doesn’t cover the face) in my class. Why would I?

    A headscarf is not a threat to the class. A headscarf does not start a fight or cause trouble in the classroom. A headscarf is definitely not destroying Finnish culture.

    Young people (and why not older people too) want to be approved as they are by the groups they are in. Immigrants are humans too! There’s no rational reason (except the one I mentioned before) why one cannot wear a headscarf in the classroom. Banning headscarves “just because” or by telling untrue statements about Finnish culture, you can make the one wearing a headscarf feel like she or he is not wanted part of the group. She or he isn’t approved as she or he is. This can be damaging especially to young people.

    It’s not “ass kissing” if we let immigrants do things their way if there’s no real reason not to let them. Why can’t we approve them to be part of us? Why do we fight against stupid issues? We should learn from the mistakes our country and other countries have made in the past and figure out what can we do better. Immigrants are part of our country/society – we should start getting along better.

    • Enrique

      EvilFinn, your point of view is very sensible. I believe that many Finns (I cannot say majority because there is no study to back it) think like you. It’s no big deal unless adults want to turn it into one. I remember visiting an elementary school in Juva a while back and a lot of the girls wore headscarfs. They looked neat. We forget that before, headscarves were pretty mandatory among Finnish women back int he early twentieth century.

  9. xyz

    When I was 10 or so I didn’t even care what other people wear. I think most of the kids don’t even understand what this scarf is meant for…or don’t care.

  10. EvilFinn

    “EvilFinn, your point of view is very sensible.”

    Thank you, Enrique!
    I just realized that my first comment in this blog was over a year ago which means that I’ve been following this blog about a year and a half. I try to understand the different opinions and stories people tell here. This blog has built (and is still building) my point of view about the whole issue the blog is mostly about. I hope my opinions will be more sensible in the future. I try to keep my eyes and mind open…

    • Enrique

      Hi Lisbeth Salander and welcome to Migrant Tales. I checked out your online publication and it is very interesting! I enjoyed it a lot. Do you guys need a correspondent in Europe? Thank you for dropping by.

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