In Finland, the Parliament’s Constitutional Law Committee on April 4 ruled that the long-standing tradition of singing a summer hymn known as the “Suvivirsi” at end-of-school ceremonies can continue. In March, Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen had called on the Board of Education to look into the matter because the song has Christian overtones and could be offensive to the country’s growing Muslim community.
“It’s curious that the minority can so strongly influence the activities of the majority,” said Education Chancellor Pekka Iivonen. “Laws concerning religious freedom work both ways: in addition to having the right not to practice religion, we also have the right to practice religion in Finland, where the majority of people belong to the Lutheran church.”
In France, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on April 23 presented a new anti-radicalization plan aimed at preventing French citizens or residents from waging jihad in Syria and other Muslim conflict zones. The strategy includes more than 20 measures aimed not only at preventing French citizens from joining the war in Syria, but also at combating the radicalization of young French Muslims during the earliest stages of indoctrination.
On April 22, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told RTL Radio that nearly 500 French citizens or residents are believed to have joined the fighting in Syria. “This is a very big subject,” Fabius said. “Now more and more young people are going [to Syria] … Our plan is to tackle this upstream [at the source] and all the way downstream. We will identify young people caught on this tragic path. We will monitor this online, and then we must stop them from crossing the Syrian border, and monitor their return and reintegration.”
Some believe the plan is a political ploy by French President François Hollande aimed at blunting the rising popularity of the anti-immigration National Front party, which captured a record number of city council seats and mayorships in local elections in March.
National Front party leader Marine Le Pen told RTL Radio that the government’s plan to fight French jihadists is cosmetic. “It does not attack the root of the problem—the speech in some mosques that are genuine calls to jihad,” she said. “Nor does the plan attack recruiters and funding from foreign countries known to support terrorist fundamentalism, such as Qatar.”
Le Pen also said it might be necessary to create a new law on mercenaries that would 1) prohibit those who have French nationality from engaging in fighting abroad; and 2) revoke French nationality from individuals convicted of participating in this type of fighting.
A confidential intelligence document leaked to the French newspaper Le Figaro says a form of Muslim ghettoization is gaining ground within the French school system. The report says that Muslim students are effectively establishing an Islamic parallel society completely cut off from non-Muslim students.
The 15-page document, dated November 28, 2013, includes 70 examples—headscarves in school playgrounds, halal meals in cafeterias, chronic absenteeism during Muslim religious festivals, clandestine prayers in gyms or hallways—of the Islamizing trend in schools throughout France.
The document says that Muslims are engaged in a “war of attrition” aimed at “destabilizing the teaching staff.” It adds that Muslim fundamentalists are circumventing the law that bans religious symbols in schools, and that self-proclaimed “young guardians of orthodoxy” in many schools are exerting pressure on Muslim girls.
“During the Muslim holidays, especially during the Eid-el-Kebir [Eid el-Adha], classes are abandoned by students,” with absenteeism bordering 90% in certain parts of Nîmes and Toulouse. A high school principal in a northern district of Marseille said that some of his pupils pray with such zeal that their foreheads bear bruises.