A Muslim woman, 38, was not admitted to the police training school because she would not take off her headscarf during working hours, reports YLE in English. The woman was so disappointed with the rejection that she even contemplated leaving Finland.
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“In the [police] interviewer’s opinion it was not possible to negotiate, and I didn’t get in to the school,” said the Muslim woman. “I have always wanted to join the police and now I’ve been forced to give up on my dream. The scarf is my identity and religion; I cannot give it up during working hours.”
Conservative Christian Democrat Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, who mixes too often religion with matters of the state, added salt to injury by claiming that the police should “represent official power, not certain religious convictions.”
Räsänen doesn’t believe that the restriction to wear a headscarf has anything to do with religion and our cultural norms.
In neighboring Sweden matters are done differently.
“Scarves, turbans and Jewish kippahs are allowed because the Swedish police want people from different backgrounds to become police,” said Carolina Ekéus of the Swedish police. “In addition, allowing headscarves was seen as an equality measure.”
The point by Ekéus is key: Do people who come from different religions and cultural backgrounds in Finland have equal rights? Is this another example of how we speak of two-way integration but it’s actually ethnocentric one-way adaption?
The headscarf case shows clearly that Finland’s police still believes that it doesn’t have to change and adjust to our ever-growing ethnic and cultural diversity.
Migrant Tales reported recently about a Sikh busman’s struggle right to wear a turban at work and there was a even a case where a Muslim woman was fired on the first day of work for wearing a headscarf.
Finland’s Constitution and non-discrimination act state clearly that a person cannot be discriminated because of his or her background. Such laws have little meaning if a public employer like the police interpret the law to suit themselves.
Moreover, it shows a total disregard for the fact that Finland is today a culturally diverse country. It is a visible thumbs down by the police to this fact.