THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED.
A letter to the editor in Friday’s Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest daily, puts into question statements by the police and the principal of the Juvankoski school, where a 10-year-old girl wearing a hijab was attacked last month by four of her classmates.
Despite the young age of the children, are they capable of racist bullying and harassment? One case in Mikkeli a few years ago shows how cruel children can be.
The Länsi-Uusimaa police claimed in a December 20 statement that racism did not play a role in the terrible incident.
“On social media and the Internet, possible racist motives have been suggested for the assault that took place in a school in Northern Espoo on 17 December. No such motives have come up in the investigation by the police,” the police statement claims.
As far as we know, the picture above is of the Muslim girl who was attacked. It reads: “What do they teach [children] at Finnish homes? That Muslims are terrorists? The little girl [in the picture above] is spending a normal day at school when four boys [classmates] tried to rip off her hijab from her head and kicked her unconscious. We are not talking now about a migrant but about a victim. @iltalehti [tabloid] I want you to write out loud that racism must stop once for all, this girl is an angel!”
In Helsingin Sanomat, the Juvanpuisto school principal, Vesa Äyräs, was quoted as saying: “I don’t have any information about that [that racism played a role].”
The letter to the editor, signed by Espoo Councilperson Habiba Ali, Imam Abbas Bahmanpour, Evangelical Lutheran Church Bishop-elect Kaisamari Hintikka, and Priest Heikki Huttunen, Filoksenia chairperson, states that the Muslim girl was bullied for a long time at school, “especially after she started to use a veil [hijab] that represents her [Muslim] religion.”
If this is true, it suggests a cover-up by the police and school principal, who seem to want to assure us that racism and Islamophobia are not social ills we should take too seriously and are solved behind closed doors.
I agree with the letter to the editor, which raises a lot of questions about how racism and Islamophobia are played down at schools and the police service. It states that the safety of our children from violence and bullying is vital. Violence in any shape or form is wrong.
While the identity of the children should first be protected, we should use this terrible incident to debate how to rid Finnish society of racism, bullying and violence, especially in our schools.
What happened could be a wake-up call for Finland to wake up and stop using denials to combat racism and Islamophobia.