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Browsing by Subject "suomalaiset muslimit"

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  • Kela, Leena (2023)
    Since the early 2000s, European nation-states have exhibited an increasing tendency to prohibit the use of Islamic veils. This has typically been justified by claiming that Muslim practices such as veiling symbolize the oppressive, non-secular, fanatical, and ultimately non-European nature of Islam. Historically, Europe has indeed tended to essentialize and Other Muslims, that is, construct simplified “us vs. them” understandings of “Western” and “Muslim” identities. In the more recent decades, however, globalization and growing cultural diversity have brought up concerns over the future of such understandings. I therefore argue that veiling bans are much less about the veils per se and more about what increasing, visible diversity means for familiar constructions of “European”, “Finnish”, and “Muslim” identities. As a result of these concerns, a demand for minorities and immigrants to demonstrate loyalty to the local “national” culture has become prevalent. While a national ban like the one in France and several other European countries has not (yet) been implemented in Finland, there have already been political discussions of whether such a ban should be ratified. Moreover, surveys and polls have shown that Islam is persistently viewed as a foreign religion that is inherently different from “Finnishness”, suggesting that the debate over Muslim minorities’ place in Finland will continue to come up. The decisions that are made will affect how religious minorities are approached. Therefore, in this thesis, I analyze how Finnish people justify bans on Muslim women’s veils in their comments under Helsingin Sanomat online news articles, examining what Islamic veils are perceived to mean. The analysis will further demonstrate how such comments work to (re)construct exclusionary Finnish identity. The key research question which I answer is: How do readers of Helsingin Sanomat online news articles justify the banning of Islamic headscarves in their comments? The qualitative content analysis of overall 209 comments from the time period of 2016–2022 reveal that Muslim women’s veils were perceived to challenge “Finnishness” because they were thought to symbolize oppression, partiality, resistance to integration, danger, extremism, and even poor health. The findings therefore demonstrate that Muslim identity is constructed as the foreign and illiberal opposite to liberal Finnish identity, and denying Muslim women certain fundamental rights, such as freedom of religion, is justified by arguing that it is a way to protect the otherwise liberal, enlightened “local” societies. It is argued, then, that as long as Muslim women continue to veil themselves, they cannot be accepted into the “in-group”. Overall, the findings of this thesis provide a nuanced understanding of how Islam, Muslims and especially veiled Muslim women are perceived by Finnish individuals in particular, especially from an intersectional perspective.