White Finnish privilege #55: It is that time of the year – Christmas!

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Far-right poliicians and Islamophobes of varying hues commonly blame Muslims for banning traditional Christmas parties at school. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Those wanting to remove Christmas parties are Finns who believe that religion should not play a role in our schools since we are officially a secular state. 

What happens when most of the students of the schools aren’t Christians and you insist that the Christmas party must go on? What does it say about our respect for other religions and cultures? Is it a power trip? Does it send a warning that we call the cultural and religious shots in Finnish society?

The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church is by far the biggest in Finland with 72.6% (4.004 million) of the population belonging to that faith. The second- and third-biggest religions in the country are the Islamic faith and the Finnish Orthodox Church with 1.3% (70,000) and 1.1% (61,690), respectively.

One question we could ask is why do we keep under a magnifying glass a congregation that accounts for only 1.3% of the population? The answer, I believe, is obvious: Islamophobia that lives another day thanks to denial and misinformation.

Why the open hostility if Finland is a country that guarantees religious freedom? Why is there so much hostility?

White Finnish privilege #55

A good example of white Finnish privilege is organizing Christmas parties at schools and by denying other religions the same public spaces. While Finland states publicly that the adaption of newcomers to Finland is a two-way process (Integration), it is in practice a one-way process (assimilation).

Disagree? Wasn’t President Sauli Niinistö quoted as saying in YLE, just before presidential election day that the only “public” spaces that foreigners have are the four walls of their homes?


Source: Yle News

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He said:

“I read in a newspaper of an Iraqi who had lived a long time in Finland and he said tha this [his culure] isn’t any problem. When I go home, to the store, anywhere, I behave like a Finn as in this society following the rule of the [cultural] game. But when I come home, I have Iraqi culture – truly impressive. And together with acquaintances can very well practice [my culture] but the starting point is that Finland’s values are respected, democracy, gender equality.”

What is wrong with what President Niinistö said in the above statement? Apart from being against the spirit of our laws, it assumes that people from other cultures aren’t as “enlightened” as Finns because they don’t know what is a democracy, and gender equality.

That is an assumption by the president. and if he didn’t know, people constantly learn new things. What hinders them from learning new waves is suspicion and prejudiced assumptions.

Instead of excluding and painting cultures with a single brush, why not try something more effective means like inclusion and respect?

A good start would be to give other cultures and religions their rightful public space. And to accept the fact that there is an ever-growing culturally and ethnically diverse society that includes everyone irrespective of their background.

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