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“Don’t ever convert to a Finn”

“Don’t ever convert to a Finn”

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Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
In this study, we analyse accounts of young Muslims with migration background (n = 205) about... mehr
“Don’t ever convert to a Finn”
In this study, we analyse accounts of young Muslims with migration background (n = 205) about living in Finland using a grounded theory approach. The analysis revealed two ways in which the young Muslims describe Finland and Finns: The Finnish society is described in positive terms, as a free and safe society that has a high standard of living. Finnish culture and people, in contrast, are described in an ambiguous manner. On one hand, most Finns are friendly and open toward other faiths. On the other hand, some of them are racist and, in any case, they are seen as “the Other” to Muslims. We explore the distinction between the two ways of describing Finnishness further by contrasting it with the distinctions made between citizenship and nationality or civic and national identity – that is, between membership in a state and membership in a nation. While Finns, in general, have had a tendency to conceive of nationality and citizenship as synonymous, the Muslim respondents in our study appeared to construct Finnishness differently: They recognised themselves as having citizenship rights, which they valued highly. However, the young Muslims also seemed to distance themselves as “Others” to Finns and, accordingly, did not articulate a marked national identity as Finnish. One reason for the difficulties of the young Muslims in identifying themselves as Finnish is that some of the culturally available representations of being Finnish seemed for the adolescents to be incompatible with elements of Muslim identity. Such representations involved Christianity or heavy use of intoxicants. Namely, contrary to common ideals of Finnish society as religiously neutral, the young Muslims appeared to associate “being Finnish” with “being Christian”. We employ the concepts of banal nationalism and civil religion to account for the intertwining of religion and nationality in the Finnish society. Finally, we propose a narrative model of intersectional identity as a way of conceptualising the dynamic interplay between religion, citizenship, nationality and other social identities among multiply identified minority group members.