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19 Dec, 2008 06:10

Muslims find refuge in Finland

Muslims find refuge in Finland

Muslim refugees and immigrants fleeing war-torn countries like Somalia and Iraq are increasingly finding freedom in Finland.

Although the thousands of those seeking refuge in the country have only one official mosque to share, few complain about their new lives.

The history of the Muslim community of Finland dates back to the 19th century when the country was under Russian imperial rule. Tartar muslims from Russia were the first to make their home in the Nordic country.

Since that time the population has grown to fourty thousand, with most coming into the country seeking asylum.

Mohammed al-Hello, who moved to Finland twelve years ago from Baghdad, at first found it quite difficult getting used to his new home.

“What I miss about the lifestyle in Iraq is the communication between people,” said al-Hello.

Native Finns are also embracing Islam. Abdullah Tami heads the Finnish Islamic Party and has hopes to gain a foothold in elections in 2011. His party's platform consists of more emphasis on social and green issues, not joining NATO and imposing Sharia Law, which is the legal framework of Islam.

Tami believes Sharia Law has gained a negative image, but says that it could prove beneficial for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

“We are explaining the fundamnetals of Sharia law and how it can work within the Finnish community – it is not about stoning and flogging solely – it's about simplifying – a Sharia law-led banking system, dealing with promiscuity, for instance as Finland has one of the highest rates of sex outside of marriage,” said Tami.

Finland's one official Mosque equals the amount of Islamic teachers. However, according to the Finnish Islamic Council, more and more are undergoing training like Leban Yahye Ibrahim.

“I've seen many muslim youths, Arab, Somalis, Africans, who really need someone who is their age, who knows Islam well,” said Ibrahim. “We need more people like me training up – I'm young and understand youth here.”

Those who have just arrived here say they notice that life is quieter and very different to the country of their birth but say they have finally found peace here, and want to make it their home.