The Shia-Muslim Mellunmäki mosque in eastern Helsinki has been vandalised not once, but twice in a single week, as affronts to the Islamic religion and its practitioners were spray-painted onto its walls, national broadcaster Yle reported.
On two consecutive days last week, inscriptions "rapers" and "f**k Islam" appeared on the outside of the Salamat charity's prayer room.
The perpetrator was reportedly caught on camera, but his face is obscured by a hoodie, officials at the community centre say.
At about 700 square metres of space, the mosque in Mellunmäki is one of Finland's largest. It is located off the beaten path, which could have encouraged the vandals, according to its representatives.
"We hadn't really seen this kind of thing before, but in recent years it has been starting to gain ground", Paula Kemell, board president of Resalat, Finland's largest Shia Muslim community organisation. "It's not a regular event, but sometimes we have two instances of vandalism in the same week, like this week. Our website has also been hacked, threats are made against us and we are sent death threats. It never ends", Kemell added, voicing hopes for a crackdown on hate speech in Finland.
As the vandalism coincided with a mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand, it has caused distress and fear among Helsinki's Muslim community, the Helsinki Times reported.
"The events in New Zealand demonstrate, that there is a short distance from hate speech to hate crimes" Mellunmäki mosque imam told the news outlet, "I pray to god that we wont have to wash anything worse than paint from our mosque's walls".
The walls of the mosque were washed clean in a team effort. Apart from mosque-goers, representatives of several different religions volunteered to help with the clean-up. Heidi Rautionmaa, a pastor with the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, said this was "all about friendship and solidarity".
Helsingin Mellunmäen shiiamoskeija on joutunut ilkivallan kohteeksi. #Moskeija’n seinä on tällä viikolla sotkettu kahdesti solvauksin. Seinät putsattiin talkoovoimin.— Sirpa Patronen (@SirpaPatronen) 15 марта 2019 г.
– Tämä oli ystävyyden ja solidaarisuuden teko, sanoo #pappi Heidi Rautionmaa. #islam https://t.co/AgJwLuq9t7
Meanwhile, this is not the first attack directed against Finnish Muslims.
"In Finland, Muslim communities face persistent hate crime" Helsinki police superintendent Jari Taponen tweeted. "The normalisation of hate speech also results in the normalisation of hate crime over time", he added.
In February, an Islamic community centre in Oulu was vandalised for the ninth time when someone threw a smoke grenade through a window, causing localised scorching and smoke damage to the building. The incident in Oulu was seen as retribution for a local grooming gang scandal featuring girls as young as 10. At present, several men with immigrant backgrounds from the Middle East are under investigation.
In 2016, 2.7 percent of Finland's 5.5 million population was Muslim, according to the Pew Research Centre, which also suggested that it could grow to 15 percent by 2050, given the current demographic and immigration trends. Historically, Finnish Muslims almost entirely consisted of Finnish Tatars, but has grown to embrace other population groups, such as Arabs, Somalis, Kurds, Turks, and Albanians.