Category Archives: Finland

Athens Still Lacks Legal Mosques

About two hundred years ago, Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire and there were thousands of Muslims who lived in Athens. Fast forward two hundred years and it is 2009 and there are 120,000 Muslims in Athens, but not a single mosque in which people pray is legal under Greek laws. A Greek couple who rented their basement to some Muslims are being fined because the tenants converted the area into a mosque in which people can pray. Several thousand Pakistanis are fighting the closing of the mosque because it is the only one available for them to pray. Lawyers argue that one must secure permission to use an area as a mosque for prayer, but city authorities will not grant any such permission.

Neighbors complained about the mosque which they disliked because it led to the gathering of large crowds of people anxious to get into the small area. For years, many bodies and the European Union have complained about the absence of a legal mosque for Muslims, but for some strange reason city authorities just can’t get around to granting legal permission to pray.

What Should Be Retirement Age?

At a time of declining economies, people losing life savings and a severe reduction in the income of older people, the government of Finland is proposing to raise the retirement age from 63 to 65. We can assume the rationale behind this move is extending the work life of people which supposedly brings in more tax money and the other facet is delaying when people gain access to their retirement money. Finland does allow some agricultural workers to retire at age 56 as they pass on the farm to the next generation. The issue of retirement may well become one of the most significant during the coming years as governments balance economic pressure from paying retirement and seek to keep people working.

Life expectancy has been increasing and a person who retires at age 65 may well have anywhere from twenty to thirty years of productive life. This suggests the need to rethink the nature of what constitutes “retirement.” At the other end, delaying retirement means corporations are delaying promotion of younger people and making companies older in terms of who works. Is this beneficial to society? Do we need to open top echelons of government to younger people with new ideas.

If we only focus on economic ramifications of delayed retirement we lose perspective on important social components of the new concept of being retired.

Should Retirement Age Be Extended?

As the economic crisis deepens there is increasing talk about extending the age required for people to enter government retirement systems. Finland is currently debating raising the age to retire from 63 to 65. The ostensible reason advocated for such legislation is that people live longer than previously so it only stands to reason they should retire at an older age. However, the change has many implications. At a time when many corporations are laying off newly hired people, it results in the aging of their workforce. If those at the upper age end of a company delay retirement, it means younger people will have a more difficult time to move up in the company. An extension also fails to recognize that many people have spent their lives engaged in hard physical labor and retirement allows them some momentary physical rest at a time when their bodies are more prone to wear out.

Perhaps, it is time to recognize that retirement will be for those with greater wealth, a long time in which to live and without meaningful work or activities it will result in emotional issues. We need to rethink the entire process of retirement and describe in greater detail what being “retired” means in a post industrial society.

Violent Women-The Ignored Violence

There are numerous studies and campaigns to assist men who have violent tendencies, but relatively little is done about women who display such behaviors. A recent project by the Federation of Mother and Child Home Shelters studied 100 women who were seeking help for their violent behaviors. It is not common for a male who has been the subject of a woman’s aggressive actions to seek help from authorities since it makes him feel physically and sexually impotent. According to statistics, 40% of aggravated assaults in close relationships in Finland were committed by women. Hannele Torronen notes: “women are usually told that they can overcome their violence by just having some rest or that their aggressive behavior can be understood if their spouse is difficult.” Women simply do not feel comfortable telling anyone they are the cause of violence in the family.

The study indicates many women turn violence upon themselves and will cut themselves or punish the self by excessive eating. Perhaps, it is time to end gender bias and deal with female aggressive behavior.

Asylum Issues In Finland

The world of Europe has been dramatically changed since the end of World War II as millions of people have arrived from Africa and Asia in search of a better life both economically and politically. The Finnish parliament recently debated the nature of its asylum program which, most probably, is among the most lenient in the world. It is not surprising that right wing elements believe their nation’s open door policy is being abused by immigrants who claim the right of asylum when they most probably are seeking a better economic life for their families. Some critics are demanding that anyone whose application for asylum has been denied should immediately be deported to prevent them from using the system in order to continue living in Finland. There were also claims that since Finland is more receptive to asylum seekers, they ignore Sweden or Norway and head for Finland.

The issue is most probably more complex than those who use the system since immigration procedures also require extensive programs to integrate newcomers into the culture of the new country. Part of the problem in dealing with asylum seekers is the nature of how asylum is defined by a nation. In other words, what are the criteria established to justify allowing an immigrant to gain entry. There is no simple answer to that complex question.

The Diversification Of Finland

Most foreigners have visions of Finland as a land inhabited by people who are blond and blue eyed and have scant relation to the multicultural developments in the world. This view is now being proven to be completely incorrect as validated by the fact that one out of four marriages in Helsinki involved Finnish person marrying someone who was of foreign background and twelve percent were marriages in which both parties were foreign born. According to statistics when Finnish women marry someone from another nation it is a high probability he is from a Western European society, but when Finnish males marry, they more likely select a woman from Asia or Russia. The increase in immigration plus the greater probability Finns have traveled most probably has led to this shift in population.

In one sense, these marriages serve as bridges between cultures and integrate Finland in new ways that will eventually transform Finnish society into a multicultural blend of differing values and beliefs.

Finland Becoming Less European More Asian

Europe is undergoing a dramatic revolution in the composition of its population. Most people regard nations like Sweden or Finland as falling outside the immigrant surge which has impacted Europe over the past half century. Helsinki and some neighboring cities now have over 90,000 residents with an immigrant background and their numbers have grown by 25% in the past few years. In the early 1990s, immigrants came from Russia or Estonia, but the new wave is from Asia including numerous people immigrating from China and India. The Finnish government just granted immigration rights to a group of Palestinians who were living in Iraq. Finland also has a large number of immigrants from Somalia.

Immigrants tend to concentrate in neighborhoods already having people from their own background and they move into areas with cheap housing or government assisted housing since they are just entering the labor market and tend to have low wages jobs. Finland by the year 2050 may well be a rather diverse society. Welcome to the 21st century.

EU Will Not Screen Anti-Muslim Film

The European Parliament has banned the viewing of the anti-Islam film, Fitna, on its premises. The film was made by Durch right-wing MP and Freedom party leader, Geert Wilders who reacted by storming out in anger claiming it was a blow against democracy. A majority of members of Parliament believe the film merely incites hatred of Muslims and does not contribute to raising issues other than those of blind hatred. Originally, the film wa to have been shown in a conference room, but the projector was taken away. Fitna reminded his audience the film already had been show in London and elsewhere.

The basic thesis of the film is an examination of the Koran reveals it encourages war and violence. It contains a collection of quotes and news footage of terrorist attacks. It would not be difficult to make a film which contains quotes from the Bible as well as footage of Christian violence including the Holocaust. Issues in this case have nothing to do with democracy, they simply deal with taste and refusal to foster anti-Muslim hatred. Mr. Wilders is free to show his film around the world. There is no doubt a ready audience for such films is available among those who hate Muslims.

Finland Immigrants Population Seeks Education

According to most forecasts, immigrant population will continue to grow due to the decline in birth rates among Europeans and the need for workers to handle tasks not being done by the native born population. A study by the Finnish National Board of Education concludes immigrant success in school depends upon several factors such as their cultural background, length of time in Finland and their ability to gain expertise in the Finnish language. However, second generation immigrants perform at higher levels than native born Finns. It is estimated by 2025 about one in five students attending school in the greater Helsinki area will be of immigrant background.

An issue for current children of immigrants is the smaller percent who go on to upper secondary school. This should not be surprising since it is common in virtually all societies which have a heavy immigrant influx. It takes one or two generations for immigrant children to reach the level of native born students. As is so frequently the case lack of teachers with language skills to work with immigrant children is factor in the inability or lack of interest on the part of immigrant children to go on to upper secondary school.

Greek Youth Riot Over Police Shooting

Thousands of Greek youths rioted in several cities across the country over the death of a teenage boy who was shot by police. The young people were armed with stones, batons, and firebombs which they fired a the police as well as other forms of authority. By nightfall, several areas of Athens resembled a war zone with glass, rubble, and broken furniture in the streets. Local TV showed youth erecting barricades as police fired tear gas in their direction in an effort to restore order to Greek cities. Many rioters who were being pursued by police sought sanctuary in the universities which historically are off ground to the police. Thousands of young people marched through the streets of Athens shouting, “Down with the murderers in uniform.”

Prime Minister Costas Karemanlis publicly apologized to the father of Alexandros Grigoropoulos who was shot by police. Most probably the outburst of youth anger is deeper than the death of a single boy by police, but may reflect a feeling the government of Greece is still run by the “old boys network” and is not responsive to the need for a modern, honest government that is in tune with needs of the 21st century. According to Professor Thanos Dokos, “there are a lot of disoriented young people who feel they don’t have much to expect from the future and are very disconnected.” We can expect more such outbursts of anger as the recession continues to spread.