Finnish names include the rare named Ali (as a first name) and even Rami (sometimes short for Raimo), as well as surnames containing the Ali- (over) or Yli- (under) prefix, like in  Ali-Virta or Yli-Anttila. I believe at one time these types of name were exclusive in a certain area of Finland. Unrelated but still shows the use of the prefix, a corporeal in the army is a Ali-kersantti (literally under sergeant).

Now that said, this article at YLE is juxtaposing the different receptions Finns with the Ali name or surname are treated in different parts of the world, in the US and in the Muslim world. It’s a tongue in cheek piece, and does in fact relate the need to inspect passengers with the name Ali, especially white passengers with the name of Ali.

NOTE: Finns just happen to get in the crossfire of it all, but such is life, better an inconvenience than disaster striking.

Finns named Ali are suspected of being Muslims at United States border

YLE: There are at least four thousand persons with the name of Ali in Finland. Also, surnames with ali in the prefix are both familiar and safe, except in the United States. There, Ali’s are suspected of being Muslim converts,  who have been even strip searched.

Traditional Finnish-looking professor Ali Harlin has been five times this year in the United States. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, border controls for the short haired and chin bearded Finnish man have become a torment.

– During my trips to the U.S., I have had three full strip searches. I can say that a body search is not very nice. After all, a normal human being has no other way but to accept the situation, says Ali Harlin, a VTT professor.

Ali Harlin’s searches have lessened during Barak Obama’s presidency. Concerning his work, the professor who often visits the embassy, believes that the American authorities have been slowly getting his profiling in order.

– I had a long time a flight ticket, boarding pass marked with four s-letters. It means that this person is always checked and verified, Ali Harlin says.


Ali can also be everyone’s friend

In many European countries, Ali’s are the subject of closer scrutiny. In Germany for example, a number of those caught in preparing a terrorist attack native Germans were Muslim converts. Some had the name of Ali.

The situation for Ali’s is soon quite different when traveling to Muslim countries. ETLA’s Research Manager Jyrki Ali-Yrkkö has shared a recent experience with that of many Ali’s in a recent visit to Cairo.

– Whenever he introduced himself, there was a smile and an offered hand. A lot of them became friends at once. There, I even began playfully using the name Ali. Yes the atmosphere was good as soon as introduced himself as Ali, Ali-Yrkkö says.

Also, it has been suggested to Professor Ali Harlin that he would go to help the Finnish business in Arab countries. Ali is a great name at the negotiating table, where there may be a number of Ali’s at the same time.

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