HELSINKI – Seeing her dream of joining police shattered over her hijab, a Finnish Muslim has urged the government to allow Islamic headscarf in police uniform to encourage integration of the minority in the society.
“I want to be part of society, but society does not want me,” a 38-year-old Muslim woman, who was barred from joining Finnish police, told Yle on Thursday, April 3.
“Building society seems to involve only certain norms and certain workplaces where us ‘scarfheads’ are hidden from other citizens,” she added.
|Hijab: What’s It All About?|
The Muslim woman's dream to join the Finnish police has been shattered after failing to convince security officials to accept her Islamic attire.
Asked how she would react if she was not allowed to wear a headscarf during working hours? The Muslim woman suggested a compromise that would be “compatible with the police uniform”.
However, her suggestion was rejected.
“In the interviewer’s opinion it was not possible to negotiate, and I didn’t get in to the school,” the Muslim woman said.
“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.”
Unlike Finland's hijab restrictions, Sweden allows veiled Muslim woman to join police.
“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.”
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The case is not the first to raise debates in Finland surrounding religious outfits.
Last week, a Helsinki court fined managers of a clothing retailer for discriminating against a veiled Muslim employee.
Hijab has been in the eye of storm since France banned the headscarf in public places in 2004.
Since then, several European countries have followed suit.
Finnish Muslim woman are demanding changes to the police rules that would help in solving several immigrants problems in the society.
“Us, scarf-wearing Muslim women, are needed in the Finnish police,” said the rejected Muslim applicant interviewed by Silminnäkijä.
“For example I would know different ways to solve immigrants’ problems than other police officers.
“I could also train other police in religion and culture issues.”
According to the Finnish Police University College, security officers from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds are needed.
“The target is part of our recruiting strategy,” said Lotta Parjanen of the police college.
“We want police to be more diverse.”
Despite such calls, an earlier opinion by the National Police Board on the religious symbols during work showed “negative attitude”.
The police Board said that: “Scarves would risk police impartiality and reliability”.
“Allowing headgear could lead to other requests for religion-related rights, for example the right to break for prayer,” the Board justified its rejection.
“Use of headgear could risk the police reputation for impartiality and trustworthiness.”
Government officials and political leaders shared a similar opinion, calling to maintain the Police rules that ban hijab.
“It’s important that police are seen as representing official power, not certain religious convictions,” said the Christian Democrat leader.
“If police can be called to deal with an emergency call out in which people with certain ideological backgrounds are in conflict with each other, then the official uniform also demonstrates police impartiality.
“I’m sure some can give up the scarf when on official business,” said Räsänen, who advised people who feel discriminated by the law to make an official complaint.
There are between 40,000 to 45,000 Muslims among Finland's 5.2 million population.
For Finnish Muslim women, upholding hijab ban would reflect prejudice against the minority.
“It’s a shame that the Police Board hides behind the official uniform code, rather than simply saying that we do not accept you,” said the rejected applicant.
“It is pointless to talk of Finnish equality and democracy, when the rules do not apply to all groups.”
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