As the sexual abuse cases in Oulu gather more steam and public outrage, one of the lessons we are overlooking is our reaction and racism. What role do the police, media and politicians play in fostering hostility towards migrants in general and Muslims in particular?
Even if Finland claims to have one of the best education systems in the world and is a society based on social equality, don’t let those matters fool you. They are not meant to be taken seriously if you are a migrant or a member of a minority.
Migrants and minorities in Finland not only live in a society that discriminates against them, but reminds them that they live in a hostile environment.
The term “shooter” could be replaced by “sexual assault.”
If we look at the 2017 hate-crime report published by the Police University College and what happened to a 10-year-old Muslim girl recently in northern Espoo, who was allegedly attacked because of her hijab by four of her classmates, they are examples of the growing hostility and that words have consequences.
One of the most worrying matters about the latest hate-crime report, which showed that they had jumped by 7.97% to 1,165 cases compared with 1,079 in the previous year, is the 58% rise in attacks due to religion. Most of those attacks were against Muslims.
Hate crime reported to the police is only the tip of the iceberg.
Should we be surrpsied by the growing hostile environment? If look at the reaction of the police, media and politicians to what happened in Oulu, our reaction should not surprise us.
Below is a timeline of the statements by the police and how it racialized what happened in Oulu:
- December 1: The first statement by the police stating they have in custody seven suspects charged with aggravated sexual assault and abuse of minors;
- December 4: The police states three days later that the suspects are “of foreign origin” and that contacts with “children” were made through social media. This led in some cases to “serious sexual assault” crimes;
- December 5: The sexual abuse case in Oulu grows and now involves three more victims who are minors bringing the total number of suspects in custody to ten. It states that “the suspects have come to the country as asylum seekers and as quota refugees. All of them have lived in Finland for years. Some are naturalized Finns;”
- December 11: The police publish a picture of one of the suspects who is still at large;
- December 11: The suspect who was sought by the police is apprehended in Germany;
- December 12: The police state that they have nothing new to report on the sexual assault cases involving minors;
- December 18: The police state that the number of minors who are victims is five. For the first time, or after 17 days since the first statement, it speaks out against hate speech. It said that “foreigners or foreign-looking people have been the recent targets of hate speech as well as inappropriate and threatening behavior [by white Finns]. One family of foreign origin with their child were victims of the above.” The police state that nobody can take the law in his or her hands;
- January 3: The police publish the name of the suspect in Germany who is detained in that country by the police;
- January 11: The police said that three suspects who are of foreign origin are in police custody for four new cases of sexual abuse of minors. This took place in summer.
If the police have racialized what happened and thereby in the process – willingly or unwillingly – labelled all Muslims in Finland as rapists, Yle is another culprit spreading the same message.
On an A-studio: talk show on December 13, Yle revealed the nationality of the suspects. When I asked Yle why their nationality was important to know, the state broadcaster responded in an email that since the men “came from countries where women are oppressed,” and “from warzones,” where the risk of sexual abuse is higher, reporting their nationality was the right thing to do.
On the same talk show, the reporter quoted the police as saying that young girls should avoid meeting foreigners on social media sites.
The Islamophobic mindset of some Yle reporters can be clearly seen as in the story below.
The woman wearing a niqab does not represent a political party but the reporter, Jyriki Hara, thought it was a good idea to post. The picture was later removed. It was one of last year’s biggest gaffes of Finnish journalism. Source: Yle.
Politicians, even government ministers, are on the rampage.