Habiba Ali Column: A Question of Identity

Habiba Ali is Social Democrat councilor from Espoo. She works with Finn Church Aid and was born in Somalia.

Habiba Ali / Credit: @hbboali Twitter

This is my first column for News Now Finland. I hope many more will follow. So at first, let me introduce myself.

My name is Habiba Ali, this year I was elected into the Espoo City Council for the first time. Espoo is Finland’s second largest city and also one of the fastest growing. Finland has been my home since 1991, and I came here as a child with my family as refugees when I was five years old.

Consequently, I started my formal education and socialization through Finnish day-care.

Apart from being a city councilor I am working for Finn Church Aid‘s ‘Reach Out’ project.

The project promotes societal cohesion, cooperation, dialogue and trust-building between communities, civil society and authorities, and aims to prevent radicalization and to increase knowledge about the phenomenon of violent extremism in society at large.

In the future I want to share my experiences and views based around these subjects. I am also planning to discuss identity, equality, human rights and many of my other passions.

Let’s start with my first topic: who is a Finn and who is not? Who and what defines them?

This year is Finland´s 100th anniversary of independence.

Did you know that in 1898 Rosa Emilia Clay was the first African to be granted Finnish citizenship? Finland has been a multicultural country even before it existed as an independent state. Nowadays mainly a different narrative is being pushed. So this seems to be the right time to raise this topic.

To me, being Finnish means to live by the Finnish laws, to be part of society and to care for the country and its inhabitants’ well-being, both now and in the future, and not to define the colour of your skin, your origin, your religion or the way you dress.

A Finn can be black, a Muslim and a woman, just like me. I always notice how Finnish I really am when I am abroad (how can some people go to sauna with a bathing suit on?!)

We need to have change in attitude and fast. I don´t feel that I have to prove every day to everyone that I truly am a Finn.

The next generations should not have to experience racism and to deal with challenged identities either.

Do you have a comment about Habiba’s column? Email columnists@newsnowfinland.fi