Expert on geopolitical conflicts, Alan Salehzadeh, urges to ban head scarves in schools and face veils in public spaces

Alan Salehzadeh, who has gained publicity in the past years as an expert on geopolitical conflicts and researcher for the Finnish National Defence College, urges in his blog for a ban on head scarves in schools and face veils in public spaces. Salehzadeh, an immigrant from Iran, has previously as well spoken out for issues that touch upon issues in multicultural Finnish society, such as migrants’ difficulties in the job market due to language skill requirements.

In his blog post from May 21st Salehzadeh maintains that in democratic Finland it is not acceptable that certain religious groups – with this implying to Islam – force their children to embrace a religion and at the same time force little girls to wear the headscarf to the school. He notes, that it creates inequalities between students for example when a girl who wears the headscarf is not able to attend gender-mixed swimming lessons. Hence, he urges for a citizens initiative that would call for a law which can forbid parents from determining their children’s dress style.
Salehzadeh argues that the headscarf should be allowed to be used only after the child has reached 18 years of age, which is the age of majority in Finland. However, he finds that even then, when a woman is able to decide for herself about her religious dress, face veils should be banned as they are not compatible with democratic values.

The issue of the face veil in the public space has been a topic of discussion also earlier this year, as MP Nasima Razmyar, like Salehzadeh with an immigrant background, expressed her concerns against the face veil in an interview. For Razmyar it would be necessary to ban the face veil in cases in which a woman is wearing it in her profession in the child education sector. Although she criticized the face veil as part of an employee’s dress in schools and nurseries, she extended her argument so that the face veil does not support the integration of its wearer into the Finnish society.

Demographic changes reflected in the Finnish name calendar

Name days are a tradition in Finland with roots already in the 14th century going back to the tradition of naming days of the year by Christian saints. Today, all Finnish calendars have a certain or several female and male names added to each of the days of the year and thus the “name day” can be individually celebrated by 84 % of the Finnish population. The National Broadcasting Company YLE reported in June, that Muslims names are to be added to the calendars in the future. Since the 1980’s new names have been added to the calendar by their frequency and since 2010 the requirement has been over 500 Finnish native speakers having the given name. The decision on which name will be added to the national calendars are made in the official calendar office of the Helsinki University and the calendars are updated accordingly every five years.

Minna Saarelma-Paukkala, lecturer in onomastics at the University of Helsinki, commented in an interview for YLE, that popular Muslim names such as Mohammed and Omar will be added to calendars. At the moment there are about 200 persons who are native Finnish speakers and have been named Mohammed, for the name Omar the number is over 100. Saarelma-Paukkala noted that although with the current demographic developments, also partly due to families of mixed cultures Muslim names will reach the requirement of 500 individuals, the addition of the name to the calendar will be discussed separately with the Muslim community as name-days are not an Islamic tradition.