Dr. Abdul Mannan, the imam and the president of the Oulu-based Islamic Society of Northern Finland, is adamant about one matter: Those who are guilty of sexual assault should pay for their crimes. He said that the suspects, which number 16 men, have also brought shame to their community.
“These types of crimes [committed by the suspects] are unacceptable in all religions,” he said. “We strongly condemn what they did because of their gravity and the friction they cause with the rest of society. The whole community is suffering because of their crime.”
Dr. Abdul Mannan.
Dr. Mannan, who has lived 26 years in Finland, said he knows well the country’s Islamic community, which is the second biggest religion in the country with more than 100,000 members after the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. Muslims account for 2.8% of the total population.
Being a Muslim in today’s Finland and Europe is sometimes challenging. Since September 2017, the mosque in Oulu was vandalized eight times.
The sexual assault cases in Oulu are a good example of how whole groups are easily labelled.
“The media and journalists carry a lot of responsibility on how others see us [in a negative or positive light],” he said. “Journalists must understand that they play an important role in society. What they say has a big impact.”
Contrary to regular media, social Media has a bigger impact on society, Dr. Mannan added. “Those who are contributing in social media must be careful because a simple comment may ignite the hatred towards immigrants or break the harmony of our social environment.”
According to Dr. Mannan, the number of suspected sexual assault cases in Finland in 2017 and 2018 was 1,836 and 1,865, respectively, according to Statistics Finland. “We condemn all those who were connected in the crime,” he said. “We all should raise voice against this unexpected and hated crime. These crimes are polluting the environment as well as degrading the status of our society.”
Dr. Mannan said that his interview inHelsingin Sanomat on Wednesday had a positive impact and many thanked him through email and text messages for expressing his opinions on the difficult topic. Even so, the situation in Oulu is still far from normal.
“A taxi driver [who is a Muslim] in Oulu said that a passenger did not want to pay him because ‘she had paid with her taxes asylum seekers’ live,'” he said. “Muslims try avoid going to the city center in the evening because they fear being attacked.”
Dr. Mannan said that he gets calls from strangers . Some attack him over the phone.
“When one started cussing at me I immediately hung up,” he said. “There is no reason I have to hear anyone insulting me over the phone.”