Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim racism, is on the rise in Finland. The National Forum for Cooperation of Religions in Finland, CORE Forum, expresses deep concern about this phenomenon and calls for action to eradicate it. Following the discussion on the Finnish Government’s statement on measures to promote equality, gender equality and non-discrimination in Finnish society, the Finnish Parliament voted in favor of the government’s confidence on September 8, 2023. However, the statement does not mention any measures to protect Muslim communities.
“At the heart of the discussion that led to the government’s statement was the issue of hate speech and discrimination against Finnish Muslims. A notable deficiency in the statement is the absence of specific actions to counter Islamophobia. We want to address this issue with a united voice, representing various faiths,” says Father Heikki Huttunen, the Chair of the CORE Forum.
Islamophobia is a serious problem affecting Muslims of all ages in Finland. The hatred and discrimination faced by Muslims can lead to feelings of insecurity, social isolation, and fear that self-expression may need to be restricted in school and work environments (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, 2020). This marginalization has negative consequences for individuals, communities, and society as a whole.
“The number of Finnish Muslims is constantly growing, and their equality and right to non-discrimination must be safeguarded. The CORE Forum expects the government to take concrete measures to combat racism against Muslims and will discuss proposals for action in meetings with authorities in the coming autumn”, Chair Huttunen adds.
The statement presents a legislative and research project aimed at preventing hate crimes against Jews, Muslims, Christians, and other religious groups. The proposed measures focus on criminalizing Holocaust denial, commemorating the Holocaust, and banning Nazi symbols. The CORE Forum, representing six religions, provided an opinion to the working group preparing the statement. The opinion emphasized that the Finnish government must protect religious freedom, ensuring everyone’s right to practice their religion without discrimination.