Be it the riots in Sweden or the tragic murder of a British solider in Woolwich last week, it’s always the eager face of intolerance that is ready to expose itself. The knee-jerk reaction to these events reveals something disturbing about us: our prejudice, intolerance and near-clueless answers on how to move forward in a culturally diverse society during economically trying times.
Mainstream politicians, who may mean well, end up digging their political graves when they try to attract the anti-immigration vote. We saw this with disastrous results for them in Finland in the April 2011 elections and most recently in the United Kingdom, after the good showing of the anti-immigration UKIP party in the local elections.
Despite proof that it’s politically risky to be in cahoots with anti-immigration groups by echoing their message of intolerance, it seems that Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen of Finland hasn’t learned from his past mistakes. He said that one way of avoiding the riots that took place in Sweden is to keep the amount of asylum seekers in check.
If people are fleeing war and violence, isn’t it their human right to seek asylum in a country like Finland? Or should they go somewhere else because we speculate that they will instigate Husby-type riots in the future?
If I could, I’d ask Prime Minister Katainen why he made such a statement and how many asylum seekers are taking part in the riots in Sweden. I seriously doubt there are any asylum seekers rioting in Sweden.
What do such inopportune statement reveal about the political atmosphere in Finland? It shows that mainstream parties still fear the populist anti-immigration and anti-EU Perussuomalaiset (PS) and have few good arguments to challenge it.
It’s not the first time that the prime minister had made such an untimely statement about immigrants in Finland. In March 2010 he said that ”debating immigrant issues in this country didn’t make you a racist.”
That affirmation by the prime minister opened the Internet floodgates of greater intolerance and victimization of immigrants and visible minorities.
National Police Commissioner Mikko Paatero added as well more fuel to the flames of intolerance by stating that what happened in Sweden could soon take place in Finland. He thus labels and reinforces negative prejudices of immigrants that they are a problem instead of an asset to our society.
What do all of these tragic events and reaction by our officials tell us about the present state of intolerance in Finland? It not only shows ignorance and political opportunism, but reinforces the idea that too many in this country are still in the dark about how to promote greater tolerance.
Sad but true.