Finland: Helsinki welcomes minarets

After the Swiss ban on minaret construction, many other European countries wonder how they would decide in case of a referendum, and they claim almost unanimously that they would choose to ban the ban.

In the Finnish capital of Helsinki, mosques and their minarets seem to be welcome. This is the view of Helsinki’s city planners and of the Finnish Lutheran Church. Helsinki’s freethinkers also seem to be in favor of a free public space for the towers from which calls to prayer are announced to those practicing Islam.

Even the most hard-boiled of Helsinki residents do not support a Swiss-style ban on the building of minarets. A quick interview round carried out by Helsingin Sanomat in downtown Helsinki showed that almost without exception the city’s residents adopt a positive view towards the Muslims’ wish to have a traditional Mosque in the Finnish capital. The plan, however, is still very much in its initial stages.

Finland’s only proper mosque is in the small town of Järvenpää Helsingin Sanomat

So far there is only the one purpose-built mosque in Finland, the Järvenpää Mosque, which was erected in the 1940s. The timber-framed building also includes a small minaret, but as in most non-Muslim countries, the call for prayer from the minaret is not permitted.

The Järvenpää Mosque belongs to the Islamic congregation of Finland’s Tatars, established in 1925. “Apart from the one actual mosque, we can only speak of prayer-houses here in Finland. The majority of the country’s just under forty houses of prayer are in the capital area”, says the Finnish Islamic Association spokesperson Isra Lehtinen.

In the Helsinki region there are seven sizeable Muslim mosques. Prayer-houses have been set up, for example, in converted bank branches and in old cinemas. Finland is home to an estimated population of 40,000 Muslims — the same size as the total population of the town of Järvenpää.