Muslim woman wasn’t admitted to the Finnish police training school because she would refuse to take off her headscarf

by , under Enrique Tessieri

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.

 Näyttökuva 2014-4-3 kello 20.29.48

Read full story here.

“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.


  1. JusticeDemon

    Can we now expect to see Räsänen disciplining the named police officers involved in the work of kristityt poliisit ja palomiehet? Note the prominent use of the Finnish police logo on this page.

    Of course government ministers also represent official power, so perhaps Räsänen should take corresponding care not to display her religious convictions by, for example, leading an explicitly religious political party.

    The justifications supplied by the National Police Board are transparently fallacious piffle.

  2. ohdake

    Bit of a misrepresentation. Police officials explicitly said that they wanted to get the minorities as part of the police force. And no one denied the right to wear ‘ethnocentric clothing’ while off duty.

  3. elmeri

    Ok, So what is with you and Päivi Räsänen? There’s no reason to attack her.

    And AGAIN you missed to quote a relevant part:
    “…said Räsänen, who advised people who feel discriminated by the law to make an official complaint.”

    Or doesn’t this let her “off the hook”. Let her burn in hell, then?

    This is not a case for her to decide, National Police Board answered, she has to respect that. Let the court decide. This is correct.

    Her christianity is not an issue here. The rules are simple, no (visible) crosses are allowed either.

    And to comment JusticeDemon and kristityt poliisit ja palomiehet. This is not the same thing and you know it. Police can participate in religious gatherings in their own spare time. They are not on duty (and not wearing uniforms) then.

    You are being silly.

    • JusticeDemon


      Police can participate in religious gatherings in their own spare time. They are not on duty (and not wearing uniforms) then.

      You have no concerns over the prominent use of the official police logo on this website of kristityt poliisit ja palomiehet? Neither have I, but for the sake of consistency Räsänen certainly ought to ask whether it is appropriate for these named police officers to declare their religious affiliation when they are meant to be impartial instruments of public power.

      Police officers and other public officials have frequently been disciplined for their conduct while off duty. Subsection 2 of section 14 of the State Civil Servants Act is specifically not confined to conduct during working hours. I am tempted to add “and you know it”, but I suspect that you didn’t.

      Take a look at the letter from Tuomas Wilkman for an example of this kind of activity. I suspect that Wilkman considers that his religious convictions make him a better policeman (and he may well be right), but Räsänen is quite clearly taking the view that it is improper for anyone to declare such convictions openly in the capacity of police officer. This means that the opening remarks and overall intent of Wilkman’s letter are inconsistent with the standard declared by the government minister who is ultimately responsible for his work and status. Wilkman should therefore remove these references from his letter and decline any involvement in an organisation that uses police symbols in a religious context or refers to itself in a manner that conflates religion and police work.