In Finland, we talk a lot about freedom and human rights, but in increasing multiculturalization, I have experienced narrowed understanding of them. Freedom of speech, or the right to expression, is really something so basic but the understanding of the concept of those issues is complicated from time to time. Also, racism is still a part of our world which is sad to acknowledge.
In my intercultural family we really have many cultures mixed, and we all have many colours. For example, I am lighter skinned, and my husband, on the other hand, is a darker skinned person. We are both Muslims. I am a Muslim woman that prefers to wear a hijab and I made that decision a long time ago, even before considering the possibility of marriage with my husband.
Recently, I faced an uncomfortable situation. I was in a market with my husband, and we were in a queue for the cashier. While I was paying for our groceries, I heard a man in the queue after us saying to my husband: “Here in Finland we have women walking around freely.” I felt anger boiling up inside me. I replied: “I walk freely and just as I want to.”
. It feels so bad to admit that you can still face racism in Finland, but it is what it is. Freedom of expressing my religion by wearing a scarf is something that is not fully accepted yet. You still can hear comments like this and, what is the worst, it did not surprise me at all when I heard that statement from the man in the queue.
The man was not really paying attention to anything I said and looked right at my husband to fuel the argument. I can say that my husband was a lot angrier than me about the situation. We ended up walking away after the cashier worker interrupted the conflicting man in the queue after us. The event was forgotten soon, but the bad feeling was felt in the air on our way back home.
I was wondering about that incident for days and I decided to share my experience with my colleague, who made an interesting conclusion. According to her point of view, the man in the queue wasn’t trying to harass me personally. He was actually trying to harass my husband, and that makes sense to me too, based on that man’s behavior during the happening.
Let me elaborate. We started to think about the reasons for the harassment and it appeared to us that, if I had been at the market alone, or if my husband had looked more like a Finn, we would not have gotten into that situation. It feels so bad to admit that you can still face racism in Finland, but it is what it is. Freedom of expressing my religion by wearing a scarf is something that is not fully accepted yet. You still can hear comments like this and, what is the worst, it did not surprise me at all when I heard that statement from the man in the queue. I think maybe I am used to hearing such comments made by some people. It is unfortunately and sadly normalized.
I grew up in a very intercultural group of friends, and it is clear for me to respect everyone and not judge anyone’s personal decisions related to their life. And that is why I do not want to hear any comments about my decisions either. But the thing is that my husband is very sensitive to this subject, because of our religion and his personal culture. Every person like that man in the queue knows about possible sensitivity to this topic within Near-Eastern cultures. The man was hitting straight and in the right spot.
There is freedom of speech, but it should have limits, because someone’s words should not violate anyone’s rights in any way possible. People should be more polite and respectful in voicing their opinion about others. We are a progressive country and I really hope that these basic things will be soon understandable to everyone. As my colleague has encouraged me, I now want to encourage you all who have been in situations like that as a victim, or just a witness to report the incident to security or police or someone else, who can take the case to the next authorities and try to make a change. The change may not happen particularly in your case at that very moment, but over time we will help Finnish society to overcome racism, prejudice, and violation of rights and freedoms. We will make multiculturalism and intercultural families a normal and accepted thing.
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Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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