“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Letter From Finland

A post from Finland responding to this: Europe Without Christianity

You wanted to know about how Islam is seen here. Well, I could say that Islam is generally not a "hot topic" yet as it is in some other countries. I see two basic reasons for this: First, the number of Muslims in this country is, though growing, still quite small compared to many an other EU nation. Secondly, the Muslims have been playing it relatively low-key.

The first point is due to the stricter than average EU policies on accepting refugees--at least that was the case in the 90s. Also, a major portion of the immigration has also come from non-Muslim areas, such as Vietnam and China.

People do know about Islam, or at least about the basics, as religion (=Lutherian/Christian) is a schoolsubject in compulsory school curriculum, and world religions are also covered at some point as the pupils hit their teens, being old enough to try and put these different concepts into a meaningful perspective. Religion is also a topic in so called gymnasium (2nd level, non-mandatory) education, as it is a fundamental part of one's general education and even requisite for understanding many an other issues involved in history studies, for example. European history is also history of Christianity, and vice versa, and these two cannot be separated from one another.

Muslims have played it relatively cool so far. But I'm feeling a wind of change blowing, so to say, and issues have been popping up here and there. Some Muslims have started blaming officials of "anti-Islamic" behaviour. The space Muslims have been given is now being tried and stretched. No one has forced or even tried to force Muslims to embrace all the values of the majority, or to assimilate, but rather some space has been given within which a Muslim does not need to compromise all Islamic values and traditions. That is a classic Finnish way, and has worked well with other minorities. Some of these differences are taken into account in schools etc. (no need to go to church with other pupils etc.) Basically, these same freedoms are also available to everyone, if one doesn't for some reason want their child to take part in classic religion teaching, substituting classes are given on similar type of topics, but from a "philosophical" point of view. Even teaching of Islam may be available at least in major cities for some pupils, as is Orthodoxian Christianity etc.

Still, Muslims do not seem to content with what they're given, but rather only want to increase their role and influence, and their religion-driven freedoms and "privileges". If no such freedoms are granted, or you're against them, you're anti-Islamic or something. They just do not give much respect.

Public is generally not too aware or concerned over these issues, I'd assume. These issues' presence in people's awareness is relatively small, as so many other topics grab the attention. But such incidents as the infamous case in Denmark, for example, which people here can easily identify with, have stirred up discussion. The pope issue helped as well, as these phenomena were not about some low-life suicide bomber or about "fundamentalists" etc. but about the very essence of Islam.

These issues are coming onto the table. I hope people also manage to see them as what they are. It is just that sometimes you realize you had something very valuable only after you have lost it.

People here have been blamed of being more racists than some other in Europe. I don't know about that, and do not agree on such a claim. People here are very tolerable to those who think differently, even if not very accustomed to foreigners per se in rural areas, smaller towns etc. Every one is given their space and freedom to express their thoughts and practise their religion. Muslims are the only ones who are and will be trying to abuse this mentality to drive and force their agenda. And suddenly, things that have for ages been taken as granted and self-evident, are no longer that, if, or when, the society and its morale starts to bend and give in to these alien concepts. The danger is real, and these people have the guts that drive their agenda. No question about it.

What comes to me personally, on Scandinavian perspective I'd be considered a conservative. But if looked at from American point of view, my socio-economical views would be far in the left. On the other hand, I still feel that some of the ideas I have on education, for example, are definitely not leftist, but rather competition and markets driven, unlike those suggested by many Republicans or even Democrats in the States, which seem rather leftist concepts to me: They do not create enough competition and do not guarantee a level playing field for children to compete on. (as children cannot choose in which family they were born in, or what their parents did, they cannot be treated the same way as other entities in the society are)

But I won't delve deeper into this or other topics--I did take part in some discussion on another blog in the past, and that only resulted in Rufus getting terribly mad at me, and no one really gained anything, for one does not simply turn from a Conservative into a fan of the Scandinavian wellfare state model. (which I'd like to see also changing in number of ways). Or wise versa.

And since I tend to speak out on issues, and am not afraid to be wrong either, it has resulted in some exchanges of ideas... well anyway, but I need to go now.

Thank you for your support.

I wrote this piece in a great hurry... hope it became even somewhat comprehensible.


  1. Good report--Evidently, Denmark is the hot-seat among the Scandinavian nations, as far as Muslim radical activity, would you say?

  2. Good Lord, the Wallenbergs own Sweden, the socialist nirvana!