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Demand for Hijab in Finnish Military Sparks Debate

CC BY-SA 2.0 / Hernán Piñera / Look through the windowA woman wearing a hijab looks through the window
A woman wearing a hijab looks through the window - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.05.2021
While the Finnish Armed Forces insist that the current ban is dictated by conscription law rather than being religiously motivated, hijab proponents believe that dress code can be updated to better reflect society and attract talent.

A Finnish-Somali woman has sparked a debate on the acceptability of the hijab in the Finnish Armed Forces by challenging their current refusal to accept the garment as part of the uniform.

20-year-old Helsinki resident Fardowsa Mohamud claimed her dreams to serve as a peacekeeper were dashed when she found out that the Armed Forces don’t permit headscarves with uniforms.

By her own admission, she applied to volunteer for military service in January and was invited to interview with the Karelia Brigade. The Armed Forces explained that hijabs are not permitted for safety reasons and that all service members must have a uniform appearance.

Mohamud claimed the hijab to be “part of her identity”, as well as “her choice and her decision”.

According to her, a change in dress policy to include hijabs would bring more people into military service, including "women of colour".

“I don’t think that would be a bad thing for Finland”, Mohamud told national broadcaster Yle, adding that dress codes are not set in stone and can be updated to better reflect modern society. “I know many hijab-wearing women who would be interested in completing military service or doing police work,” she added.

Major Marko Maaluoto, an armed forces representative, praised Mohamud's desire to serve the country and her “great attitude”, but emphasised that army dress codes are rooted in conscription law.

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He stressed that the Finnish Armed Forces respect different faiths by granting leave for religious holidays and underscored that the hijab wasn't banned for religious reasons.

“It’s a general rule that only military headgear is permitted,” he explained.

In conclusion, he said that a rules change was not impossible in the future.

Previously, Sweden and Norway allowed uniformed soldiers to hear religious headgear.

Earlier this month, Finland's National League offered players sports hijabs as a token policy to encourage young players from diverse backgrounds to participate in football as well as other sports.

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