Finland: Now We Want a Mega-Mosque
In recent years, Muslims in Finland have been complaining about not having an official mosque. This is not entirely true; the Finnish Tartars have an official mosque with a minaret -- in Träskända -- which other Muslims are free to use. There are also around 80 small mosques in Finland, around 30 of them in converted buildings or private flats in Helsinki, although many of them are referred to as "prayer rooms". One such mosque is the Masjid Iman mosque, located in Helsinki on the Munkkiniemen street. According to its website, the 214-square-meter mosque, which calls itself "The Islamic Multicultural Dawah Center", was established in 1999 and is "one of the well-known mosques in the Helsinki area". As is increasingly taking place, the mosque, according to the website, was formerly a church. The mosque boasts that it has been "able to organize many activities". One of these, it says, "is to spread Islam to the non-Muslims in Finland".
Now Muslims in Finland want a mega-mosque. Two years ago, a Finnish convert, Pia Jardi, spokesperson for the mega-mosque project, known as "Oasis", said, "There is a need for a grand mosque because so far we do not have one in Helsinki. A mosque would signal to the Muslims that they are a part of society".
Another board member of the Oasis project, Imam and then chair of the Islamic Society of Finland, Anas Hajjar, was less modest. In October 2015, he told Yle, a Finnish news outlet, "...the need for mosques in the capital region keeps growing... We need three mosques in Helsinki, and one in Esbo and one in Vanda". According to Hajjar, the planned mega-mosque will be 20,000 square meters, but besides the actual mosque, there will also be sports and youth facilities. The actual prayer room will accommodate 1,500 people. Hajjar told Yle that mega-mosques, "prevent radicalization, as they make young Muslims feel like part of society".
Anas Hajjar has been linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2014, after the United Arab Emirates designated the Muslim Brotherhood and its local affiliates a terrorist organization, Anas Hajjar's organization, The Islamic Society of Finland, was included on the list. The Helsinki Times reported the surprise of The Islamic Society of Finland at its inclusion on the terror watch list: "We're very surprised by such a decision, and we have no idea why we're on the list. We condemn such, outright arbitrary, decisions," said the society's director of public relations, Abdihakim Yasin.
"The need for mosques in Finland is urgent," Susanne Dahlgren, a lecturer in Islam at Tammerfors university, told Yle in October 2015. "Mosques do not contribute to radicalization. On the contrary, they send a welcoming message."
The chair of the Helsinki Finns Party, Seppo Kanerva, also said in July 2015 that he supports establishing a grand mosque in the capital, so long as it does not have a minaret with "someone wailing at five in the morning". The proposed mosque was "welcome" he said; it would promote peace between different religions:
If we build churches, then why not mosques, so long as it's built using its own money? It's a question of civil peace. If a suitable location can be found, and the funding comes from elsewhere, then let it go ahead.
The idea that mega-mosques "prevent radicalization" is clearly popular among proponents of Finnish mega-mosques, but on what evidence is this view based? Nearly every European country today has one or several mega-mosques, which were, according to Hajjar and Sardi, supposed to make the Muslims of that country less radical by making them feel "part of society". Can they name one country where this was actually the case?
In December 2016, the Oasis foundation for the establishment of the grand mosque of Helsinki was officially established. Muslim Brotherhood-linked Anas Hajjar is one of the board members. According to the Oasis foundation, the royal family of Bahrain is going to fund the project with more than 100 million euros. The Finnish news outlet Kirkkojakaupunki reported: "the Foundation is also ready to receive funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates if they agree to the same conditions as Bahrain".
According to Pia Jardi, the "conditions" include:
no radical teachings or ways of operation... The plan is clear that the activities of the mosque will be managed by Finnish Muslims and that activities will also be organised in Finnish. The Friday sermons, for example, must be organised in both Arabic and Finnish.
Why would Finns believe that those rules will be upheld once Bahrain -- and possibly Saudi Arabia and Qatar -- have bought and paid for the mosque? Why would these nations, which spread Islamic extremism across the planet, act any differently in Finland, than they have done in any other country where they have sponsored building mosques and "cultural centers"?
"I personally believe that the large mosque envisaged at Kalasatama is a Muslim Brotherhood-driven project", a Finnish researcher, Alan Salehzadeh, wrote in March 2017. "The political Islamic agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood is led by the governments of Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood", he explained.
In Finland, dozens of mosques are already working today whose establishment has been supported by influential countries such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. ... Erdogan has called for the resistance of the Turkish diaspora and to be faithful only to Turkey.
Finnish politicians are also wary of agreeing to the project. Tarja Mankkinen, the interior minister responsible for Finland's anti-radicalization policy, said the ministry found many "positive aspects" in the mosque project, but that
the challenge is that the mosque is planned to be funded by Bahrain and possibly by other Gulf countries.
The role of the actors who fund the mosque and its activities might consist a [security] risk if it decreases the feeling of belonging to the Finnish society among the Muslim population.
Jan Vapaavuori, the newly elected (April 2017) mayor of Helsinki, opposes the mosque. "I do not think that such a mosque is needed in Helsinki. I will certainly work towards making sure the mosque will not be built in Helsinki," he said.
Radicalization is unfortunately becoming a real issue in the country. According to the International Centre for Counter Terrorism in the Hague, in an April 2016 research paper about "The Foreign fighter Phenomenon in the European Union" (p. 44):
By August 2015, at least 70 individuals from Finland had travelled to Syria/Iraq, with approximately one dozen having died abroad and around 35 believed to still be in the conflict zone... The majority... are 'home-grown', and they are either born in Finland or have lived there since childhood.
Seventy ISIS fighters from such a relatively small Muslim population is a relatively high number; the solution to that radicalization is most definitely not a Bahraini and Gulf state-funded mega-mosque in the Finnish capital. Finland would be wise to look at what the establishment of Saudi and Gulf state-funded mosques in the rest of Europe has already done to the continent in terms of Islamization and radicalization.