By Enrique Tessieri
The first time I wrote an entry on this question on Migrant Tales was in May 2008. Back then, a thread by Mikko claimed that racism wasn’t even on the top-five list of problems in Finland. Is racism a serious social problem that needs to be addressed vigorously? Where do we begin?
We can state pretty safely today that racism is not only one of the top five problems in Finland, but an ever-growing one that must be addressed.
Surprisingly, the main source of this problem haven’t been the most extremist anti-immigration wing of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party, but that of the mainstream parties such as Kokoomus, Social Democrats and others. Even if there are outspoken politicians in these parties who speak out against racism, they are a minority and too quiet on this front.
If politicians do not condemn hate crimes, speak out for tolerance and acceptance, they will with their silence support this social menace threatening Finland today.
The appointment in April of PS MP Jussi Halla-aho as chair of the administration committee, whose responsibilities also include immigration policy, is a sad example of how Finnish politicians continue to vacillate and confront racism in our society.
Those who defend the appointment of Halla-aho believe that it will help let off steam from the most extremist elements of the PS. I believe it will let off steam, but in the wrong direction.
It was in 2008 when Finland was up in arms about the founding of the Finnish Islamic Party, which awoke some of the worst fears among some Finns. Contrarily, Halla-aho’s appointment tells us that we prize Islamophobia and bigotry but give a big thumbs down to other cultures and religions if they want to take part in our democratic process.
The rise of the PS in the April election and that of Nazi-spirited groups within Timo Soini’s party that are members of Suomen Sisu, increased hate crimes never mind the adverse climate against immigrants and minorities, are clear indications that the strategy against right-wing populism has been a huge failure.
If I had to advise other countries about how to confront the rise of right-wing populist parties that are anti-EU, anti-immigration and anti-Islam, I would show them Finland as a sad example of what not to do.
All of this boils down to one crucial factor: Dear little leadership from mainstream political parties confronting right-wing populism and the social menace of racism.
As long as Finland is cursed by weak leadership, its future as a prosperous nation will be in jeopardy.