In his opinion piece The New Racism Switched Race into Culture (Helsingin Sanomat, February 17, 2017) Harri Englund, professor of social anthropology says ”today, culture defines its carrier as race did before.”
Culture can be seen as a collection of shared attitudes, values and practices that are characteristic for an institution, group of people or society. It is no coincidence that the leading countries for equality and well-being are found in north of Europe. Equality and well-being derive from our culture, language and history, and of course from prosperity and education. What it does not derive from is Abrahamic faith. For a thousand years Christianity systematically attempted to destroy Scandinavian and Uralic people’s appreciation of independent thought. The battle was hard, yet Christianity did not prevail.
Finland and other Nordic countries are the most secular countries in the world. In Finland, according to a study by Alma media, only a fifth of people aged 25-34 believe in the Christian god (Iltalehti 23.12.2016). Instead of god, we have sanctified equality of individuals. Northern equality has developed within our culture for thousands of years. Perhaps the idea first propagated 5000 years ago when an anonymous artist painted a bow-wielding huntress at the cliffs of Astuvansalmi. Many Finns experience equality as insurmountable and above criticism – thus a kind of sacred idea. And what a magnificent idea it is. Look at what we have achieved here in Finland! Finland is placed in top five countries in equality, freedom, safety, stability, education, clean environment , healthcare, prosperity and many more.(stats.fi)
Today, in the era of mass immigration, concern for our small oasis of equality is high. Millions of people are about to enter Europe, as well as Nordic countries. Some of them come as refugees of war, some to take advantage of our generous social care and educational system. These people presumably come from such a different culture from ours that they do not share the Nordic idea of secularity, equality, responsibility and justice. But still they request a home, money and respect. I am, like all people on earth, a product of my own culture. I do not appreciate some peculiarities of Islamic culture in relation to my worldview. I also understand that they may not appreciate the values of my world – so great is the distance between Islamic world and Nordic everyday life. Naturally there are certain individual differences, but the concept of individual differences originates from western culture.
A few years ago I was bewildered when an acquaintance from an Islamic country remarked ”human rights are a western concept and invention, people do not share the idea in every culture.” It dawned on me then that the majority of Islamic world grants me as much ”human dignity” as Quran grants to human’s with wrong religion, wrong opinions, wrong sexual behavior, wrong words and wrong thoughts.
If I had to flee from Finland, let’s say from the cold, to as far away as Saudi Arabia, my opinions of equality would doubtfully change at the border of the country. I would probably strive to spread my ideas of a fair world and equality even though the surrounding society would ”act racist” by trying to prevent it. Similarly, I do not think that an asylum seeker’s values change when crossing Finnish borders. This rings even more true if we make excuses for our own values and the way our society is built by allowing inequal practices such as praying during work-hours or organizing public swimming hall schedules by religion.
Norwegian sociologist Jan-Paul Brekke speaks about the importance of ”value integration”, namely how to integrate immigrants to a new culture and values. Brekke defined human rights, gender equality and democracy as the most important Norwegian values.
What values does an immigrant share with a new culture? Does he respect the law and the spirit of law? Or is his loyalty somewhere else? I warmly welcome value integration to be an integral part of our immigration policies and education.
Inequality creates disparities in equality. It is not racism to take it into consideration or talk about it. Appreciation of one’s own Finnish culture, the pursuit of equality, is not racism – nor is the Imams hate speeches of western decadence, death penalties for gay people, or the status of women. They are expressions of different cultural values. In fact, a desire to keep Finland free from Islamic values is not racism. It is self-protection.
During WWII, Finnish people sent children safe from the horrors of war. Approximately 80,000 children were sent to other Nordic countries. In 2015, Finns donated huge amount of children’s clothing and toys for the refugees expected from Syria. The donations were useless because instead of children tens of thousands of adult men arrived from Iraq and North-Africa. A vast gap between values I would say.
Christianity came to Finland a thousand years ago. It destroyed a large part of our culture. I would not have Islam follow his big brother’s example.