Finnish Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen surprised participants at an Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO) meeting on Tuesday by stating that “there is no room in Finland for Sharia law or other efforts towards a parallel society,” according to YLE News.
“Finland is an open, international country that is rich linguistically and culturally, and where basic rights belong equally to everyone… Finnish justice gives equal protection to everyone, regardless of skin color, religion, gender, culture or other background[s],” he was quoted as saying.
His comment caused a swift reaction from politicians like Social Democrat Helsinki councilperson Abdirahim Husu Hussein, who wrote on Facebook that the minister of justice “was flirting with Islamophobia” and that “nobody was demanding Sharia law in Finland.”
Read the full story here.
What “parallel society” is Häkkänen speaking of? Is it the one he is nurturing and encouraging by his hostile statements?
It is ironic and disappointing that the minister of justice, who heads ETNO, an organization that is supposed to promote good ethnic relations, would conclude that some religions are aiming to fuel gender inequality in Finland?
Gender inequality occurs in Finland irrespective of religion but by singling out one group you only fuel inequality and stereotypes.
We should not be surprised by Häkkänen’s statements because his suspicions of Muslims and cultural diversity are well known. They not only reveal his ignorance of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity but his opposition to them.
One of the biggest red herrings that anti-immigration politicians use in Finland is to claim Islam as “repressive” to women in order to promote ethnocentric misconceptions of one’s group. Women still make less than men in Finland and we are the second-most violent country for women in the EU.
Häkkänen’s political history gives us an opportunity to understand the context of his statement.
During 2011-2013, he was president of the Youth League of National Coalition Party, which idolizes US capitalism and the Republican Party. His predecessor was Wille Rydman, a well-known anti-immigration hardliner, and his successor was Susanna Koski. Under Koski’s leadership, the Youth League of the National Coalition Party aimed at doing away with legislation that prohibited hate speech and that would make redundant the Ombudsman for Minorities Office.
As councilperson for Mäntyharju, a small town in Eastern Finland, he is reported to have declined to offer, as a show of solidarity, his small meeting fee to newly arrived quota refugees.